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ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Communications showed serious concerns over the incomplete ongoing road projects while observing that each project only gets 10 to 15 percent of funds annually, which causes a delay in its completion, price escalation, and disputes among the National Highways Authority (NHA) and contractors.

The committee met on Tuesday under the chairmanship of Senator Prince Ahmed Umer Ahmedzai and examined in detail the progress of various ongoing and completed projects, total revenue generated by the NHA and other administrative matters pertaining to the NHA.

The committee members showed reservations about the persistent absence of the minister from the meetings and said that perhaps more than busy the minister seems not interested in the resolution of problems faced by the general public. The committee also took a briefing on the progress, repair and renewal of work on projects affected by the devastating floods last year and inquired about the preparedness for flood this year.

The committee was informed that the NHA along with NESPAK is working on a complete novel structure and alignment of bridges affected by floods. The committee was apprised that the NESPAK will furnish the structural design and the NHA will give a presentation to the committee in the next meeting on the realignment of Pinjra Bridge.

The said project will take around two years to complete. The committee was apprised that a complete hydrogel study of the NHA network is required to address floods in the country. It was also briefed that the NHA restored the roads affected by the flood.

The officials from the Ministry of Finance said that the NHA has spent 2.4 billion rupees on repair/rehabilitation of the side roads out of the NHA network in all provinces but not a single penny has been received from the government to date. It was further informed by the NHA officials that the prime minister of Pakistan has decided that expenditure incurred on roads in provinces, funds may also be provided by the respective province.

The committee also received a briefing on the details of revenue generated by the NHA since January 2019 including toll tax and other sources mentioning annually, monthly break along with its utilization.

It was apprised that a total of Rs135.488 billion was earned by toll revenue, national highways and motorways for the period of January 2019 to June 2023 out of which motorways earned Rs44.376 billion and National Highways earned Rs91.111 billion. The committee was also briefed that the Rs112.187 billion were utilized on maintenance.

While taking a briefing on the details of ongoing projects inaugurated by the prime minister since 1st January 2023 to date, the committee showed concern over the incomplete ongoing projects. He said this delay causes a great loss to the country as the NHA has to pay the liability of escalated rates to the contractor.

The chairman committee sought details of all the delayed projects in the last five years and the cost of liability of each project paid to the contractor in the next meeting. The committee was told that bidding is continued on around 10 -15 new projects in the last six months.

The committee also took a briefing from the NHA on the current status of the recruitment process of jobs advertised on 6th May and 21st May 2023.

It was briefed that the NHA advertised 96 projects posts of different cadres on 7-5-2023, total number of applications received against the post was 6,851 out of which 4,756 candidates were shortlisted, after short listing of candidates written tests of shortlisted candidates were conducted on 19, 20 of July 2023. The paper checking is in progress and the eligible candidates will be called for an interview.

The NHA advertised 37 vacant regular posts of different cadres against the Balochistan quota on 21.05.2023 against which 309 applications were received and short listing of candidates is in progress. The committee remarked that much recruitment is made on Balochistan quota to candidates domiciled in Balochistan. However, the local communities who are the real deserving candidates remain unprivileged in this regard.

The committee recommended that a test should be conducted in the local city and also an office should be established in the city to process recruitments so that the local community is benefited the most. The chairman committee also constituted a sub-committee comprising senators, Danesh Kumar, Munzoor Ahmed Kakar, and Umer Farooq to probe in detail the recruitment process on Balochistan quota.

The NHA requested the committee to enhance maintenance grant to which Senator Umer Farooq remarked that if the NHA will submit their suggestions, the committee will surely consider it and will forward the recommendation on its enhancement if seemed appropriate.

The committee was informed that there are 86 toll tax stations which are recently awarded to different companies by bidding process. The committee also inquired about a project which went viral on social media inaugurated by Maulana Fazlur Rehman and directed to provide its details. The committee was briefed that the project is of DI Khan bypass worth Rs3.4 billion with a length of 36 km.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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