ISLAMABAD: Chinese companies are interested in investing in mega road network project depending on political stability in the country after the general elections.

This was revealed by senior officials of the National Highways Authority (NHA) while briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Communications, presided over by Senator Prince Ahmed Umer Ahmedzai, here on Thursday.

After the refusal of contractors and financers to come and start mega road projects including Kharian-Rawalpindi Motorway and Sukkur- Hyderabad Motorway (M-9), the cost of these projects is expected to escalate up to 70 percent and in the current economic situation as well as high inflation, the NHA would be unable to award these projects on the same terms and conditions.

The NHA is planning to restructure these projects and retender while M9 is likely to be presented in parts as nobody is ready to take it in a whole, the NHA officials continued.

Single-window operations, issuance of NOCs to operators: NHA approves mechanism

It was further stated that the Hyderabad-Sukkur Motorway (M-9) has encountered a similar issue with other contractors’ lack of firm commitment, despite granting them a four-month extension upon their request. On December 19, 2023, the NHA issued a termination notice to the concerned concessionaire and is in the process of restructuring it with stakeholders.

While briefing the committee on the Sialkot- Kharian Motorway Project by Arshad Majeed, chairman NHA explained that the financial close has yet to be declared. He further said that due to partial fulfillment of one of the obligations on the part of GOP/NHA regarding handing over of complete project land has to be finalised.

Although GoP/NHA has fulfilled some obligations, like funding the NHA amount within three months, they could not hand over all the land due to a change in the Chenab bridge alignment by the Irrigation Department. The Secretary of the Ministry of Communications, Ali Sher Mehsud, added that alignment has been a main impediment to the progress of the project.

On a similar note, while addressing the Kharian-Rawalpindi Motorway Project, Arshad Majeed provided an overview of the correspondence process, starting from the issuance of the Letter of Intent (LOI) to the eventual cancellation of the contract with relevant contractors. He emphasized that there has been no physical or written correspondence from the latter.

Moreover, the NHA affirmed NHA’s adherence to laws and bidding conditions in the RFP (request for proposal) during procurement. The material deficiency arose from the contractor’s failure to provide written affirmation for its lead role with a 51 per cent construction share, despite ample opportunities and commitments.

The NHA mentioned that the issue was brought to the board for the project’s re-tendering, with the bid price to be influenced by market conditions, economic factors, government investment policies, etc. The committee chairman, Senator Prince Ahmed Umer Ahmedzai, advised NHA to oversee the cost and assured them of support in this regard.

Likewise, Additionally, the NHA provided a briefing on the rehabilitation of the Balkasar-Danda Shah Bilawal Section, indicating that, contingent upon the availability of funds, the expected completion date for the project is March 15, 2024. During the discussion of Periodic Maintenance Works across all provinces, the NHA delivered a comprehensive analysis.

It was informed that approximately 6,835 kilometers of roads will be improved upon the completion of all planned maintenance works, expected by June 2024. Furthermore, a total of 178 projects have been completed, with 37 in Sindh, 62 in Punjab, 24 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and 55 in Balochistan.

The committee was given an update on the latest corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives executed by the NHA, comparing its base rate with current market rates and inflation. They reported that a draft CSR, based on market rates as of July 01, 2023, has been prepared by the consultant and is currently under scrutiny.

The committee members also discussed the recruitment status of NHA for vacancies advertised in the last six months. The NHA clarified that, due to an interim notice of the election commissions, recruitments were cancelled unless approved by the commission or conducted by federal and provincial public service commissions or government organisations where tests/interviews had already taken place before August 15, 2023.

Regarding officers holding multiple posts in the NHA, a list was presented to the committee. The chairman of the committee, Senator Prince Ahmedzai, proposed that the NHA should establish training institutes at the regional level with qualified personnel from the same region/province to prevent incompetence.

Furthermore, the Director General of Pakistan Postal Services briefed the committee members on the nationwide establishment of NADRA counters in post offices and the services provided. Secretary Communications highlighted NADRA’s achievement in signing an agreement with Pakistan Post Office Department (PPOD) for CNIC renewal, modification, and delivery through post offices.

It was informed that 85 General Post Offices (GPOs) are now active, with NADRA establishing 82 counters in post offices, expecting completion by June 2024. They added that due to system constraints, the issuance of Child Registration Certificates (CRC) is not feasible, but Family Registration Certificates (FRC) are being checked for operational feasibility. They also added that NADRA Pak ID counters are operational in Quetta GPO; however, efforts are underway to make them operational in Khuzdar, Turbat, Loralai, and Sibbi.

The extension of NADRA counters to all GPOs in Balochistan is targeted for March 2024. The meeting also discussed the restoration of bank facilities in post offices, mentioning the discontinuation of the savings bank due to non-digitalization and the unavailability of the regulator, with ongoing discussions with the Central Directorate of National Savings (CDNS) for its revival.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024


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