The Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) has raised objections over the new seven-storey building of the United States (US) Embassy in Islamabad's Diplomatic Enclave, saying that the top floor of the building can be "conveniently" used for surveillance of the government offices located in the adjacent area.
According to an audit report released by the AGP office, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) had withheld the NOC [No-Objection Certificate] for the US embassy until the approval from the prime minister, as the CDA can only sanction the construction of up to five-storey buildings in the area.
However, the US government went ahead with the construction of the seven-storey building without waiting for the premier's approval, DawnNews reported.
"Despite pending approval by the prime minister, construction had started,” the audit report says.
According to a Dawn report published on November 17, 2011, however, a CDA official had confirmed that a plan for a new US embassy building had been approved by the authority.
The audit report claims that the CDA chairman had received a letter from security agencies on February 14, 2012, that expressed concerns about the construction of an seven-storey building, saying it "would overtake most of the ministries and other official buildings along the Constitution Avenue".
The AGP audit report also warned that “in all probabilities, [the] rooftop of the building will be utilised to install surveillance devices that could be used to monitor government offices in the vicinity”.
The report acknowledges that the "irregularity" occurred due to the "lack of oversight" and failure of implementation of rules. It adds that despite constant requests made by the AGP, a department accounts committee meeting could not be held.
The AGP audit report has recommended a high-level inquiry against the construction of the building and stresses upon "appropriate corrective action".
It is worth mentioning that the building blueprint was approved in January 2012, by a committee comprising officials of the CDA, representatives of Planning, Emergency and Disaster Management and members nominated by the Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners. Not one of them had raised an objection at the time.
After a local intelligence agency raised concerns, the city managers had decided to limit the height of the new US embassy complex.
“The intelligence agency asked the CDA to explain how it could approve a seven-storey structure in the Diplomatic Enclave and urged the CDA to take appropriate action,” Dawn had reported.