LAHORE: Lack of capacity, inordinate delay in decision making and release of payments to contractors, besides various other issues are not only adversely affecting the pace of work on mega development projects of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), but also inviting severe public criticism of the PTI-led Punjab government.
"For the last couple of months, completion of various important projects has been facing delays as the LDA’s urban development (UD) wing seems neither ready to make payments to contractors, nor perform the routine business (technical sanction, signing of files, proposals, actual & revised bills, running payments etc) of the department," an official source told Dawn on Sunday.
“The situation is worsening fast, as a delegation of contractors recently held a meeting with the LDA’s top management and apprised it of the delayed payment issues they have been facing for the last couple of months,” he said.
The contractors urged the officials during the meeting to take up the matter with urban development wing high-ups to mitigate their financial woes, he added.
The LDA has been executing Rs3 billion project related to Orange Line project’s at-grade work such as construction of footpaths, drains, service roads, lane marking, installation of traffic signals, painting curve stones and parking areas. Of Rs3 billion, over Rs1.5 billion has already been released to the LDA, he said.
Similarly, he said, work on Rs8 billion sports complexes in all the National Assembly constituencies of Lahore was initiated by the PML-N government, but it remained halted during the interim government and first year of the PTI rule. Later, the government directed the LDA to complete sports complexes and released Rs1.5 billion more for the purpose.
Though the LDA resumed construction work on a fast pace, its completion was still several months away, he said.
Likewise, he said, the authority was asked by the Punjab government to also resolve issues related to traffic congestion at Ek Moria Pul (junction) and approved over Rs700 million for it. The work on the project also slowed down in the last couple of months.
Moreover, the work on Rs100 million Thokar Niaz Baig junction that had begun some months ago has stopped. The project includes remodeling, facade uplifting, landscape and civil work upgrade. Similarly, there was no further progress on the Rs1 billion project of widening, rehabilitation and repair of 60 roads in the city that had entered its advanced stage some six weeks ago.
Besides the aforementioned projects, work on Rs3.5 billion LDA City Housing Scheme has also slowed down despite Supreme Court’s directions to accomplish the task in the stipulated time.
In addition, various works for the launch of Rs3.5bn Shahkam Chowk flyover (near Bahria Town) that was approved on Oct 22 are also facing delay.
“The deadline given by the LDA’s UD wing for completion of projects is absolutely unrealistic. So the LDA administration must review capacity of its UD wing being run by the officials who don’t have the capacity to launch and complete projects worth billions within a stipulated time frame,” the official maintained.
“When you are too cautious in public sector and doubt everyone, you cannot work. This is the mindset prevailing in the UD wing and it is the main hurdle in completion of these projects,” he added.
According to another official source, the LDA will have to revive its previous mode of swift working if it wants to maintain the city of Lahore — the country’s cultural capital and the second largest city. “The city cannot be left at the mercy of lazy officers in view of the massive maintenance work it needs and the new projects,” he said, recommending bold decisions to make the authority’s UD wing and other directorates efficient.
LDA Director General Mr Sumair Ahmad Syed admitted there were capacity issues in the UD wing and said he was trying hard to make things better in a bid to give relief to the public at large. “Yes, there are capacity issues in the UD wing that must be resolved. And we will take an appropriate decision soon,” he said.
Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2020