Let parliamentary panel probe dam project contract: Shahbaz

ISLAMABAD: Asserting that rebidding for the Rs309 billion contract of Mohmand dam project should be allowed to ensure transparency in the award of the contract, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif requested Speaker Asad Qaisar to form a parliamentary committee to investigate the matter.

However, Mr Qaisar did not accept the demand for a probe and soon after Mr Sharif’s speech allowed federal Minister for Power Umar Ayub to speak for some time and then adjourned the proceedings till Monday evening.

In his speech, Mr Sharif said if the project’s contract was awarded to a consortium that included Descon — a company owned by the family of Abdul Razak Dawood, an adviser to the prime minister — then it would be an “open case of conflict of interest”.

“I am not against Mr Dawood, rather I am indebted to him, but the dam is being built at a cost of Rs309bn collected through donations and people’s money; therefore it will be against the spirit of fair play if the contract is awarded to Descon on a single-bid basis,” the opposition leader said.

“The Public Procurement Regulatory Authority rules also say that in case of any controversy, rebidding of the contract is the preferred option,” he said.

Water minister to respond to opposition leader’s remarks in NA next week

The PML-N president said the contract could ultimately be awarded at a lower price if the government went for rebidding.

He claimed that when he was chief minister, the Punjab government awarded a number of development projects and in many cases the contractors were asked to reduce the project costs under “voluntary discount”.

He urged the speaker to give a ruling that a parliamentary committee should be formed to investigate the matter and submit a report to the house within a week.

Upon conclusion of Mr Sharif’s speech, Mr Qaisar gave the mike to federal Minister for Power Umar Ayub, who declined to comment on the issue. “I cannot talk about it and Minister for Water Faisal Vawda will brief the house soon,” he said.

Owing to various reasons, including a controversy over the award of the contract, the government has had to postpone two ceremonies that would have marked the launching of the dam project, which were scheduled to be held on Jan 2 and Jan 13.

According to media reports, the government considered the single financial bid of the consortium comprising Descon, China Gezhouba and Voith Hydro and a second consortium consisting of Frontier Works Organisation, Andritz Hydro and Power China was “technically disqualified” and its bid was not entertained.

The technical bids of the two consortiums were opened in July last year and the financial bid of the consortium with Descon as a partner was opened this month, raising questions as to why the financial bid was opened after a gap of six months.

However, the Water and Power Development Authority has claimed that no illegality has been committed in the process.

Drought-hit areas

A resolution was passed in the lower house of parliament that declared 19 districts of the country — in Balochistan and Sindh — as “calamity-hit areas”.

The resolution said the people of Balochistan were facing hardship due to drought and shortage of food and many people had lost their lives.

Former NA speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza assailed the PPP-led government of Sindh for neglecting the plight of people of her constituency Badin, which she said had already been hit by drought and famine.

“The provincial government is giving 50kg wheat to each of the 358,000 affected families, which is insufficient for a family of eight to 10 people,” she added.

Farmers’ grievances

In a call-attention notice, Riazul Haq, Syed Javed Hasnain and Mohsin Nawaz Ranjha invited attention of the government to the grievances of farmers, who were facing difficulties in exporting vegetables and fruits, particularly potato and orange.

Mr Haq said the country got a bumper potato crop but the government had imposed additional duty on its export. As a result, its export had declined and the vegetable was going to waste in the local fields and markets.

“A duty of Rs600 to Rs690 is being imposed on export of each bag of potato at Karachi, Torkham and Chaman,” he added.

However, the parliamentary secretary on trade, Shandana Gulzar Khan, contradicted the claim and said the export of vegetable and fruit had significantly increased in the period from July to Dec 2018.