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ISLAMABAD: At the same time that the Pakistan Monument has become a popular destination for tourists in the capital, its affairs have been mishandled owing to negligence or, allegedly, corruption, on the part of the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI).

The contract for entry tickets to the Pakistan Monument – a national monument and heritage museum in Islamabad’s Shakarparian Hills – expired in 2014. Instead of renewing it in a transparent manner, the MCI has been extending the original contract in a way that might inflict loss to the corporation.

Before the MCI was formed in 2016, the monument fell under the administrative control of the Capital Development Authority, which had awarded a Rs5 million per year contract in 2012 under which the contractor would charge Rs20 for a ticket to the site.

MCI has not held auction for contract to collect Pakistan Monument entry fees after original contract expired years ago

That contract expired in 2014. Sources said the chairman of the CDA at the time, Maroof Afzal, wrote twice to file for an auction of the site, but the Directorate of Municipal Administration (DMA) kept delaying and did not move to hold a new auction.

Sources said that a transparent auction could lead to significant revenue for the MCI, as the site receives around 1,500 tourists every day.

But, they said, when administrative control of the site was given to the MCI, the latter kept using the same tactics when it came to holding a new auction. The original contractor is collecting the entrance fee to this day, and MCI officials have said the MCI cannot hold a new auction due to a court stay.

MCI officer Zafar Iqbal said that he recently advertised the contract for entrance tickets and bidding was to be held last month. But the DMA had to postpone the auction “due to the court stay”, he said.

Mr Iqbal refuted allegations of corruption, saying that the contractor has been charged with a 10pc annual increase. He also said the contract did not expire in 2014 but in 2015.

When asked if the MCI was losing millions because of the expired contract that it could otherwise have been generating, he said: “Because of the stay we were unable to move ahead.”

Sources alleged that there was a nexus in the DMA and law directorate that deliberately did not pursue stays of their choosing.

“It is common and rightful practice that courts issue stay orders to provide a fair chance to applicants, but it was the responsibility of the MCI to fight the case through the law directorate to vacate the stay,” an MCI official said.

He added: “What type of stay is this? The contract expired in 2014-15, and it is the DMA’s right to hold a new auction. Unfortunately, our officials did not follow court cases, providing contractors changes to drag issues on in the name of stays.”

The official, pointing out alleged corruption, suggested that instead of facilitating a few people involved in such practices, the MCI “should end this contract and entry to the monument should be free”.

Mayor Sheikh Anser Aziz said he would look into the matter and fix responsibility if it is established that DMA officials are involved in a scam.

“When I examined the case a few months ago, I categorically directed the DMA to hold a new auction. I will check why a new auction was facing delays,” he said, adding that an inquiry will be held.

Some MCI officials also alleged corruption in the aforementioned contract and urged the National Accountability Bureau and Federal Investigation Agency to investigate.

Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2019