CDWP approves Rs133b worth of projects

By Adnan Rafique

ISLAMABAD: The federal government the other day cleared Rs133 billion worth of largely brick-and-mortar projects but sent back a health-sector scheme designed to upgrade nursing education facilities after provinces refused to share cost. The Central Development Working Party (CDWP) approved two position papers valuing Rs466.2 million and recommended four position papers worth Rs133 billion to the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) for endorsement. CDWP has a mandate to approve projects costing up to Rs10 billion and projects having a higher cost are sent to Ecnec, chaired by the finance adviser, for final approval.
The committee returned three projects costing Rs77 billion, which were related to road construction in Islamabad and Balochistan, and the one for strengthening and upgrading nursing facilities. The road project in Balochistan is already nearing completion but its revised design awaits final approval due to serious deviation from the original design. The Rs28-billion health project had been designed to uplift nursing infrastructure, provide stipend and grants for public and private-sector nursing institutions, hire international faculty and address governance issues.
In September last year, the CDWP had recommended the project on an equal cost-sharing basis between the federal and provincial governments. Three provinces refused to fund the project and Balochistan decided to undertake activities with the help of its current budget. There was a plan to support 65 nursing schools by picking the cost of training fee of Rs25,000 per person. The plan also included supporting nursing colleges and financing four PhD students every year at Aga Khan University, Karachi.
Similarly, the CDWP returned the Gwadar-Ratodero road project worth Rs38 billion. In 2018, the then government considered revised PC-I of the project with a cost of Rs47 billion and set up a fact-finding committee due to serious irregularities in the scheme, which initially started in 1999. The project had been first approved by the National Highway Authority (NHA) in 1999 and it was supposed to be completed by 2006. Its next completion date was the end of current fiscal year.
NHA was seeking an increase in the cost despite 52% reduction in the scope of work. The original project included construction of an 892km-long road passing through Gwadar, Turbat, Awaran, Khuzdar, Shahdadkot and Ratodero.
The project remained in doldrums due to security reasons, lack of funding and mismanagement by the implementing agencies. The government had awarded contract work to the Frontier Works Organisation under an executive order and work resumed in 2014. A fact-finding committee set up by the then government revealed that the NHA violated all norms of project management and financial discipline. The project design was changed without seeking prior approval of the competent authorities. The revised PC-I submitted by the NHA is merely to get ex-post facto approval of all irregularities.