ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday expressed annoyance over delay in the completion of Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) project and set May 20 as the new deadline for the project’s completion, directing the three construction companies to submit a guarantee and meet the deadline.

The guarantee amount would be forfeited if the project was not finished by May 20, remarked Justice Gulzar Ahmed who headed the bench, also comprising Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan.

Justice Ahmed expressed the hope that the project would be completed successfully within the stipulated time. He observed that if the contractors did not work, they could be removed or sent to prison. The project director was apparently being blackmailed by the construction companies, he remarked.

SC tells construction firms to finish work by May 20 or else their guarantee will be forfeited

He said the Punjab government should find out if the current technical committee head, former judge of the Supreme Court Zahid Hussain, wanted to continue in his role. Justice Ahmed observed that retired justice Jamshed or Abdul Sattar Asghar could be made the head of the technical committee.

Earlier, Advocate Naeem Bukhari, counsel for the construction companies, said his clients could not give Rs1 billion guarantee, adding that they had already given Rs2bn guarantee. Their dues amounting to Rs1.5 billion were pending with the government, he explained.

When Justice Ahmed asked if there was any mechanism to check the quality of construction of the project, the project director said their consultants were supervising the construction work to ensure its quality.

The hearing was later adjourned for two weeks.

The OLMT project had run into snags due to litigation over heritage sites situated close to the project’s alignment and then re-awarding of a contract for a part of the project.

Punjab will have to pay damages of Rs51 million (per day) to the Chinese government if it fails to complete the project within the stipulated time. However, the ambiguity about the deadline set for the completion or the commercial operation date (CoD) persists as the official sources were unaware of the actual date after which the Punjab government would be liable to pay the damages to be calculated on a daily basis.

“The damages arising out of delay in the project include rate of liquidated damages at the rate of 0.2 per cent (minimum) to 10 per cent (maximum) of the total contract price of the project’s civil work, local contractors’ idling charges etc. Thus, the accumulative damages will be Rs51 million (per day) in case of delay,” says a document uploaded on an official website of the Punjab government.

“No one knows about the project completion or its actual CoD. But if we consider October 2015, the month in which the work on the project started, the deadline was January 2018 as per the 27-month completion time. If we take December 2015, the month in which Pakistan and China signed Rs162 billion loan agreement, the deadline was March 2018. And if we assume May 2016, the month during which China released first tranche of Rs33 billion of the total loan value, the deadline was August 2018. All these deadlines have already passed and the project still needs several more weeks to complete,” an official source said.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2019