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    Friday, 14 September 2018

    NAB apprehends six officials in Multan Metro Bus Project scam


    The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) arrested on Thursday six officials of the Multan Metro Bus Project (MMBP).
    Project Director Sabir Khan Sadozai, executive engineers Amanat Ali and Riaz Hussain, sub divisional officers Manzoor Ahmed and Rana Wasim and Munam Saeed have been arrested, says a press release.
    “The physical remand of the accused will be requested from the National Accountability Bureau judge on Friday (today),” it says.
    Sources said the SDOs were arrested in the Multan Development Authority building and others were summoned to the NAB regional office and were taken into custody 
    Mr Sadozai was posted on deputation on the project by the Communications and Works Department in the MDA which was the executing agency of the project. He retired on Oct 9, 2015. Later, he was appointed adviser (technical) from Oct 10, 2015 to June 30, 2016 with the emoluments and other benefits as permissible to an officer of BS-20 and the remuneration as per last pay drawn.
    The investigation into the alleged corruption in the MMBP was initiated in December 2017 on the direction of the NAB chairman after the Senate Standing Committee on Finance forwarded the case to it. The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) did not provide the details of millions of dollars of the project that were illegally sent to China.
    Initially it was revealed that the money was sent to a Chinese company called Yabaite Techn­o­logy Company Limited which had link with Yabaite Pakistan Construction Group Private Limited.
    The NAB collected the entire record related to the project after some resistance from the Punjab government and initially estimated that the embezzled amount was Rs2 billion.
    A survey was conducted to construct 37-kilometre long route in two phases and its estimated cost was Rs35 billion. Later, it was decided that only first phase would be constructed at a cost of Rs28.37 billion but more than Rs32 billion had been spent to complete the project.
    The cost of 35 articulated buses (for metro route) and 100 feeder buses (for various city routes), installation of optical fiber, elevators, lights and other components is not included in the total cost of the project but these expenses were made through the Punjab Mass Transit Authority.
    Nine firms participated in pre-qualification for nine packages and it was mutually decided that each firm would get one package which was done accordingly.
    Being the consulting firm, Osmani Company Private Limited did geometrical, architectural and structural design and construction supervision of the project.
    In the bidding document for the procurement of consultancy service to conduct transport modeling and feasibility of mass transit system, the consultant was directed to not disclose any information relating to the project for 10 years after the expiration of the contract.
    Sources said that in order to earn maximum profit, safety of the passengers was put at stake by the constructing firms that reduced the width of the two-lane metro corridors to nine meter from 10 meter. And instead of following the specifications set by the provincial energy department, they said, model numbers and company’s name was mentioned for the purchase of LED lights for the project despite the fact that the executing agency -- MDA -- has no wing to testify the authenticity of the models.
    Among other irregularities, according to sources, a company which was hired for the provision of imported glass at metro stations used local glass and a probe was initiated by NAB Multan. It was later hushed up, they added.
     PML N’s government has always had the approach of ‘slapping’ concrete everywhere and labeling it as development, turning blind eye to the actual issues.
    No doubt, infrastructure is the backbone of a progressing country, however, they cannot be ranked above health and education, anywhere in the world.A country that already is suffocated under huge external debt, did we actually need to invest in projects that will earn no revenue? but rather we would have to spend continuously on it out of our tax money? Adding insult to the injury is that the operations are also outsourced to foreign companies and a large portion of capital flies ‘offshore‘.
    Metro Bus project as a whole has been under criticism since the beginning on the actual need of it. However, recently the metro bus loss crossed the huge 2.71 billion mark, creating a concern for everyone.
    Is the project worth of giving a public subsidy in a country where 60% of the population lives below the poverty line? Where our Human Development Index (HDI) ranks 147/188 in the world? and we rank 135/150 over the international literacy rate. We really need some introspection to determine that “Are we really capable of asserting that we need a Metro which ranks in the top most expensive metro in the region we live in? Do we really deserve this Metro over Bread, Butter and Books? What more is the perennial subsidy over it. Just like a cherry on the top!Being marketed as a ‘gift’ to the country, Metro is proving more of a curse than a blessing. In terms of its benefits to the society and associated costs, the Project is nothing but a white elephant.
    A report by American Public Transport Association BRT estimated that cost of infrastructure should be between $ 2-18 million/km (as of 2014).
    Considering the low cost of labor in Pakistan, the spending on Lahore Metro Bus project was recorded to be about $ 11million/km, which is far beyond the estimate of 5-7m/km approx. Comparing to similar projects in neighborhoods like  India and China, our costs are almost 4 times higher than their benchmarks (India costs $ 2.9 million per Km of Metro Construction) The report also compared the cost to other countries like China and Turkey as well saying that the cost of Metro Bus Lahore is substantially higher than even the internationally set benchmarks.
    The dilemma is being lack of vision; these projects are heavy on the budget and do not contribute positively in terms of socioeconomic perspectives. Rather they roll the wheel backwards. Furthermore, lack of transparency and quality control compounds the issue, doing more bad than good.
    Where on one hand people are suffering due to lack of adequate facilities in public hospitals, governments spend huge figures to deceive people, manipulating the true essence of progress and ‘development’.
    Are projects like Metro actually contribute in improving the living standards or are just a hoax to create a satisfying image of the government’s actual performance and justifying overspendings? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
    The 27-kilometer Metro Bus Service is economically the most disastrous project, which is causing a monthly loss of Rs 1.2 billion to the Punjab government, said PML-Q leader Senator Kamil Ali Agha on Tuesday. The Metro bus service was launched at Rs 40 billion costs along a 27-km corridor, from Gajju Matta to Shahdra, on 10 February this year.
    The 115 metro buses run with a capacity of three times more than of ordinary buses. Senator Agha said that Shahbaz Sharif's reckless spending of nearly Rs 70 billion on such a show piece is the bleeding wound for the poor people of Punjab. He said it is surprising that the caretaker Punjab government is not telling the truth about the non-feasibility of this project and is still heavily subsidising the Metro Bus service being used by PML-N leaders, as a publicity stunt.
    Metro Bus Authority sources told this scribe that the operation cost of the MBS comes to Rs 57 per passenger per trip but it is charging only Rs 20 per ticket, with a loss of Rs 37 one-way travelling. The authorities claimed they had made it clear, at the time of launch that the fares will have to go up after few months. When it was launched in early February former Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif allowed commuters to travel free for a week, thereafter, a fare of Rs 20 was fixed. More than 110,000 passenger travel daily by the Metro Bus service.
    Critics of the project say that the out-going government built this project ignoring other infrastructure schemes in other big cities and rural areas of the province including health, education, social welfare, water and agriculture sectors. The Metro bus has also been termed an unjust expenditure, with the 27-km line costing, more than allocation to any other sector (including education, health, water) under the Punjab Annual Development Programme 2012-13.
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    Item Reviewed: NAB apprehends six officials in Multan Metro Bus Project scam Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Asqamar