ISLAMABAD, Nov 12: Cash-strapped Capital Development Authority (CDA) is looking for ‘student volunteers’ to keep its sinking Information Technology Department afloat but the chances appear fat.

Except for the fat cats, these are lean times for all. And the students the CDA is seeking – to computerise its money- spinning land and revenue records – may be needy but also smarter than its bright idea.

“We are not fools to work free for a civic agency which has an annual budget of around Rs27 billion,” observed Mohsin Ali, an engineering student at a leading private university, when told about the CDA offer of voluntary places.

Dawn has learnt that the Project Management Office of the CDA hired more than 3,000 people since the start of 2008 to organise the data but strangely no data entry operators to automate its decades-old records.

Two weeks ago, with the approval of CDA Chairman Syed Tahir Shahbaz, the office sent emails and letters to public and private universities inviting their students to do the work voluntarily.

“It is an opportunity for you to contribute towards a social cause for achieving the larger goal of good governance,” said the CDA email.

Takers of the offer were required “to have basic typing skills and their own laptops”.

Sounds strange as only the other day the civic body’s new chief had distributed commendation certificates to CDA employees for initiating the computerisation work.

It was claimed on the occasion that the work was on the fast track and covered the records of commercial, residential and agro-farming plots located in the city.

“How could you volunteer working for three weeks for an institution governed poorly and tainted with alleged corruption stories,” wondered Natasha Hussain, a student of business administration.

“In its email the CDA offered each volunteer a customised timetable to his/her convenience every day of the week but informing that we have to bring our laptops,” she said.

Her friend intoned: “Only a fool would accept such an offer.”

And the reward promised is “a commendation certificate”. “It looks so unfair when the Punjab government is paying Rs10,000 per month for three-month under its internship programme,” said the faculty member of an institution.

CDA spokesman Ramzan Sajid, however, defended the offer. “We are giving the students a chance to work with the biggest development authority in the country,” he told Dawn.

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