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KARACHI: The Supreme Court-mandated water commission on Monday removed the metropolitan commissioner and directed the provincial government to appoint a cadre officer of good repute in his place within a week.

The commission, headed by retired Justice Amir Hani Muslim, ruled that there was no provision of law which allowed a non-cadre officer to hold charge of a cadre post after Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar informed the commission that the appointment of Dr Asghar Shaikh as metropolitan commissioner was an interim arrangement and conceded that it was a cadre post and the officer held “acting” charge.

Contractor’s competence questioned

The commission also directed chairman of the task force Jamal Mustafa Syed to hold an inquiry through the Hyderabad commissioner into the competence of a contractor tasked with executing the work on two reverse osmosis (RO) plants, adding that if the Hyderabad commissioner was satisfied the contract could continue, otherwise appropriate suggestions be given while a timeline for the execution of the work be made essential.

The commission, formed to implement the apex court orders regarding the provision of potable water and improving the worsening sanitation conditions in Sindh, came down hard on the additional managing director of the Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa) as he failed to give any plausible explanation for awarding two contracts of RO plants to contractor Tanzeel.

Wants vacancy filled with a cadre officer of good repute within a week

During a recent visit to Hyderabad, the commission noticed that the contractor was incompetent and had no professional background to undertake such a job, and added that merely low bidding was hardly a ground to award a contract to an otherwise incompetent person.

It further said that the department concerned was required to satisfy the competence of the contractor before awarding any contract.

Meanwhile, the head of Pak Oasis has given an undertaking that the RO plants at Satellite Town and Shamsabad will function round the clock in the future.

SSWMB’s absentee staff

The commission also directed the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board (SSWMB) to ensure that the employees transferred from the DMCs worked with the contractor and the SSWMB initiate departmental proceedings as well to stop the salaries of those employees who did not turn up to work.

The commission deplored that the contractor had failed to comply with the terms of agreement by not employing the requisite manpower as per the contract and ruled that from today [Monday], the amount of salaries of employees who were supposed to be employed but have not been employed by the contractor, shall be deducted or adjusted by the SSWMB till the contractor employed all manpower as per the agreement.

Justice Muslim also directed the SSWMB to immediately release all arrears and in the future expedite the bills of the contractor in terms of the contract subject to providing all the details by the contractor, which were necessary for the verification of the waste lifted by him.

Asif Haider Shah, a member of the task force, informed the commission that since the SSWMB did not have any district-wise monitoring system, he interacted with the deputy commissioners and they consented to facilitating the monitoring cell by providing a room within the compound of their offices while they have already been directed to act as coordinators within their districts.

The commission also ordered that the machinery and equipment, which the contractor was required to deploy/utilise for lifting solid waste, should be made available and put to use within a month.

Justice Hani deplored that the required machinery had still not been provided by the contractor and directed him to hire the same from market and start work with full swing within three days.

The commission also directed the Sindh chief secretary to ensure that the required landfill site for the disposal of solid waste was identified and allocated with required standards immediately.

Storm-water drains

Mayor Akhtar informed the commission that his team was working on all storm-water drains in their domain and would inform the commission about the details on Tuesday, adding that a meeting in that regard was convened by Asif Haider and attended by all stakeholders while the civic agencies would submit a report about relocation of pipes/wires crossing over drains.

The KDA officers, executing work on the Gujjar nullah, also turned up and the commission came down hard upon them for poor professional capacity and incompetence.

At one stage, Justice Muslim wondered how the KDA chief engineer could be holding a BE degree as he remained clueless about the questions asked by the commission.

The commission observed that a consultant hired by the KDA also appeared to be unfit to undertake a hydraulic design efficiently and deplored that it was unfortunate that the execution of work on the Gujjar drain had been assigned to the KDA which ex facie did not have the capability of completing the project.

Since the chief secretary was busy in a cabinet meeting, this issue will be taken up on Tuesday.

Malir River Sunday bazaar

Meanwhile, Barrister Salahuddin Ahmed moved an application asking the commission to revisit its earlier order about banning Sunday bazaars on the bank of the Malir River near Qayyumabad. However, the commission asked the counsel to satisfy it on the issue on April 23, but ruled that its previous order would remain in the field.

Several residents from different parts of the city also turned up during Monday’s proceedings and made complaints regarding non-provision of potable water. After examining their grievances, the commission passed directives to the officials concerned to address the issues and also referred some complaints to the task force.

After the hearing, Justice Muslim visited different parts of Orangi Town and heard complaints of area residents about a shortage of water. An MPA and some representatives of union councils briefed the commission. The former apex court judge directed the officials concerned to provide water to the residents of Raees Amrohvi Colony.

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2018