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LAHORE: Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Tuesday ordered removal from their offices of three top officials of the Punjab Saaf Pani Company (PSPC), including its chief executive officer Waseem Ajmal, a BS-20 officer of the Pakistan Administrative Service.

The CEO Mr Ajmal and chief of contract and procurement of the company, Ms Shabnam, have also been suspended from service, while its general manager (projects and services) retired Col Tahir Maqbool has been dismissed from service.

According to sources, the officers were removed for allegedly making wrong cost estimations that caused 80 percent increase in the Rs120 billion total cost for the phase-1 of the project, originally aimed at provision of clean drinking water in 10 selected districts of the province.

The consultant hired by the company for the cost estimation of the project was also removed.

The official sources say that during a meeting held on Tuesday, the CM expressed dissatisfaction over the performance of the company in general, especially in view of the revised cost estimation for installation of water filtration plants in the rural areas of 35 tehsils in 10 Punjab districts during phase-1.

“Actually, on December 22, the chief minister had constituted an inquiry team, headed by his inspection team (CMIT) chairman, to probe into revised cost estimation of Rs200 billion for implementation of the project’s phase-1. The CM did this after the company submitted the revised cost estimation to him for approval, as he was alarmed by such a huge (Rs80 billion) increase in cost of the project, caused due to delay in its execution. As per independent estimate, the increased cost should range between Rs5bn to Rs10bn or so,” an official explained while talking to Dawn on the condition of anonymity.

He said since the inquiry team found the revised cost estimations was based on unrealistic data/information, the CM during the Tuesday meeting snubbed the company officials over their failure in making realistic cost estimations and launching the project on time.

This, he said, resulted in suspensions and the dismissal.

The mega project costing approximately US$ 3000 million, envisages covering 137 tehsils [25,000 villages] for providing a basic necessity of life to rural population in Punjab.

The programme envisages provision of safe drinking water to every household in a comprehensive, integrated and sustainable manner. It will benefit over 55 million people residing in rural and peri-urban areas of Punjab.

So far, 80 water filtration plants have been installed in five tehsils of South Punjab, including Minchanabad, Khanpur, Hasilpur, Dunyapur and Lodhran as a pilot project to supply safe drinking water to some 250,000 individuals.

Under the phase-1 of the project, 35 tehsils of 10 districts, including Muzaffargarh, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur, Bahawalpur, Lodhran, Rahim Yar Khan, Sahiwal, Faisalabad, Kasur and Okara will be provided clean drinking water.

Published in Dawn, December 28th, 2016