Court directs FIA to probe BRT Project in Peshawar

Bureau Report
PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court has directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to probe Peshawar’s under construction rapid bus transit system.
The bench, headed by Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth, passed a judgment after hearing a slew of petitions against the project by residents of the city. They argued that the bus way was creating nuisance on the roads and its concrete structures were affecting the privacy of their homes.
The court in its judgment instructed the FIA to submit its findings within 45 days, and to also take action against officers involved.
Work on the 27 kilometer Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) began in 2017, under the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government. The project envisioned to provide a public transportation corridor, running east to west, to the city of nearly two million.
The PTI administration had insisted that the BRT would be completed in a record period of time, therefore six months, with low cost. However, to date, the project is still ongoing. During which its cost and deadline of completion have been revised several times.
In its order, the court called the PTI government “visionless” for concentrating the money loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in just one project, the BRT, in one city.
It further noted that no indept feasibility study was undertaken before embarking on the mammoth project, to determine its economic, financial and technical viability, “which is why the design has been repeatedly changed,” stated the judgment. The cost of the transport corridor was also increased from Rs49.453 billion in 2017 to Rs66.437 billion in 2018, of which Rs53.320 was take in the form of a loan from the ADB.
The project was to be completed in six months, due to a political announcement by the provincial government. This lead to the project being designed in haste and created many errors, Justice Seth wrote.
In addition, the “per kilometer cost of the BRT is Rs2.427 billion, which is exorbitantly high.”
The court also observed that senior officers of the provincial government, namely the additional chief secretary and the commissioner of Peshawar division were enjoying hefty allowances despite having non-managerial roles. “The PC-1 contains lavish salaries for non-project staff like additional chief secretary and principal secretary to the chief minister who do not have direct roles,” the order read.
Even the consultants pocketed hefty salaries, which the court called a “sheer waste of government’s money.”
Furthermore, these consultants misguided the government. “The consultants calculated the value of ridership as 340,000 which is even higher than the ridership of Lahore, which after five years stands at 150,000,” Justice Seth noted, “Thus, a false and deceptive financial model has been developed to hoodwink decision makers.”
One consulting firm, Calsons and Maqbool, was even backlisted by the Punjab government, yet it was taken on board for the BRT in Peshawar. Calsons and Maqbool gave expensive vehicles to secretary transport, director general of the Peshawar Development Authority (PDA) and commissioner Peshawar. “Why were this vehicles accepted?” the court asked. Even the IT project was given to a “big wig of the present government.”
The metro bus in Lahore, Punjab, has a fleet of 65 buses, the court added. But for the BRT, 419 buses were proposed which were then reduced to 219, of which only 65 were to be used for the BRT. The rest, the order explains, were to be utilized as feeder buses by private transporters. “Why should the public pay for the buses of private transporters?”
Lastly, the court also directed the FIA to investigate the nexus between Pervez Khattak, the incumbent defense minister, the DG PDA, Azam Khan, who is currently the principal secretary to the prime minister, amongst others, “How was this nexus created in order to manipulate desired shares?”
Meanwhile, the government on Friday has decided to move Supreme Court (SC) against the decision of Peshawar High Court (PHC) that directed Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to hold BRT project inquiry within 45 days.
According to details, Advocate General has told that the case will be filed in the apex court in coming week.
It is to be mentioned here that detailed decision of PHC stated that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government launched the BRT project without vision and planning. “Why was the CEO of Trans Peshawar removed from his post?” it read. It further stated that the BRT contract was given to a blacklisted company in Punjab, adding, “What was the need for such a large loan for the project?”
The High Court in its ruling said that attractive salaries were made for staff in PC One. Payment was also made to the Principal Secretary of the chief minister and ACS. Plans for Peshawar residents cause trouble, added verdict.