ISLAMABAD: The government has been ‘losing’ over a billion rupees a year since 2011 because of a bureaucratic minefield surrounding the new secretariat building.
The loss — estimated by the Housing Ministry — was quoted in a letter by a Planning Commission’s Implementation and Monitoring Wing member to the Pakistan Public Works Department (PWD) chief engineer.
Besides losses due to non-utilisation of the building, Rs50 million is being paid in rent for 13 privately-owned buildings that currently house the offices of various government ministries and divisions.
The Housing and Works documents state that the 13 offices in rental properties are using a total of 24,859 square metres of office space in the capital.
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The aviation division, textile, privatisation, strategic export control division, narcotics division, information and broadcasting, the Interprovincial Coordination Division’s sports board, and the National Food Security and Research division are among the units are housed in rented buildings.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony has rented a 5,200 square-metre office in Melody Market, which is the largest rented government office in the capital.
The letter, written last month by a Planning Commission member, refers to the minutes of a meeting.
“PWD has done nothing positive to take care of taxpayers’ money,” it states, while going on to blame PWD of “wasting time”.
It further notes that the Planning Commission was of the view that more than five years had been lost due to negative tactics of former PWD officials. The letter warned that any further delay would be considered PWD’s fault.
“It is recommended to let things move into the right direction to save loss of Rs1 billion per year in addition to the deterioration of the building,” the letter said.
In 2011, the government completed construction work on the new Secretariat building — comprising three new blocks —on Constitution Avenue near Kohsar Complex. The old Secretariat building is already overcrowded.
Space constraints at the Pak Secretariat are a long-standing problem, while the government has yet to come up with a plan to accommodate departments that are currently functioning from ‘temporary houses or buildings’.
The nine-storey new Secretariat building has 69,677 square metres of office space. Though the building was completed in 2011, installation of heating and elevator system continues to be an unresolved point-of-contention between the construction company and PWD.
Similarly, the project also became controversial when in 2011, PWD pointed out missing specifications in the bid documents.
These documents pointed out that the bid lacked details on earthquake control measures, while automatic rescue devices did not meet the requirements, and some emergency features were found to be missing.
In January 2011, PWD moved the Islamabad High Court and obtained a stay order against the installation of heating and elevators by the contractor.
The court has still not take up the case.
Ministry of Housing and Works Deputy Secretary Jameel Ahmed admitted to the delays in utilisation of the new building.
“It is unfortunate that we have not made the new building functional yet. The court order has us hamstrung,” he said.
Meanwhile, it was also decided earlier this year in a meeting at the Ministry of Interior that three floors of the new building would be utilised by the newly-formed anti-terrorism body, but this has yet to happen.
Other government offices functioning in rented buildings are also eyeing space in the new building.
Moreover, another 17 government offices are housed in buildings belonging to other government ministries.
These include the office of the Ministry of Interprovincial Coordination, which coordinates out of the Cabinet Block, the Ministry of Ports and Shipping, which is parked in the Shaheed-e-Millat Secretariat, and the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis, which is an ‘expat’ in the Pakistan Manpower Institute building.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2015.