ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Railways (PR) on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that it had taken over the 141-acre Royal Palm Golf and Country Club in Lahore from Messrs Fergusson on July 7.
In compliance with the apex court’s June 28 orders, the railways ministry has assumed the responsibility of the elite club. The court had held illegal the agreement to lease out 141 acres of railway land to Maxcorp/Mainland Husnain Pakistan for developing a private elitist club.
The apex court had ordered that the land with all its assets and infrastructure be handed back to Pakistan Railways with a direction that the normal activities of the club and its operations will not be impeded in any manner whatsoever like dining areas, golf course, gymnasium, sports activities, swimming pools, cinema halls and wedding functions that have already been booked. Such activities will be held strictly as per the booking orders, the court said.
The court directive had also required that the chartered accountants A.F. Ferguson and Co will complete handing over of all records and transfer management of the club within a week.
During pre-partition times, the provincial government had granted a lease in perpetuity of a prime property located on Canal Bank Road, Lahore, to the railways.
Dispute revolves around the lease of land in a non-transparent manner
The Golf Club was set up with an objective to provide recreational facilities to the railway employees. The club consisted of an 18-hole golf course, a swimming pool, club house and housing accommodation for the railways lower staff. In 2000, a decision was made to offer the club on commercial lines to the interested parties to finance, redesign, develop and manage its operations.
The Supreme Court judgement had come on a joint petition filed by former minister of state for railways Ishaq Khan Khakwani, now PTI’s central leader, in 2011 and one of the founding members of the PPP Dr Mobashir Hassan as well as the Railway Board.
The dispute revolves around the lease of land to Messrs Mainland Husnain Pakistan by the Pakistan Railways allegedly in a non-transparent manner and flagrant violation of settled principles to develop the Rs50 billion Royal Palm Golf and Country Club in Lahore.
Now in a report before an implementation bench of the Supreme Court headed by acting Chief Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, it was explained that all the relevant record and data pertaining to the club available with railways have been provided to the forensic audit team in connection with each query raised by the audit team.
Moreover, the copies of all the necessary documents were provided which resulted in smooth audit of the club, the report said, adding that the IT assistance had also been provided to retrieve the old database by activating the old/outdated servers of the club.
The process for inviting proposals for hiring a consultant for the transaction advisory services has also been initiated on July 18 and a proper mechanism has been adopted for hiring of the consultant in line with the Procurement of Consultancy Services Regulations, 2010, and in this regard quality- and cost-based method has been adopted.
The report said a management committee headed by the chief executive officer, senior general manager and senior members of the railways has been constituted to run the affairs of the club.
Out of 30 golf carts of the club, the report said, only two were in working condition, but all-out efforts were being made by the railway engineers and technicians to repair the out-of-order machinery to cater for the requirement of the golf course.
Similarly, 391 employees working in the club have been retained by the new management and their salaries amounting to Rs8.3 million per month were being paid well in time.
Moreover, utility bills and other operational expenditures are being met from the earning of the club and there is no default on the part of payment to vendors of the club, the report explained.
It said that all the members of the club have been assured by the chief executive officer/senior general manager through the social media that their membership rights and facilities will be protected strictly in accordance with the agreement and efforts will be made to improve the same.
Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2019