ISLAMABAD: Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Wednesday took less than a minute to endorse a multi-billion rupees settlement between Capital Development Authority (CDA) and M/S BNP (Private) Limited – the developer of Grand Hyatt Hotel.

Though the matter was not in the routine agenda of the PAC, its chairman, Rana Tanvir Hussain, hurriedly allowed the settlement under which the developer would be given over a year’s time to deposit the first installment of the total amount of Rs17.5 billion to the Capital Development Authority (CDA).

The civic authority in August 2016 had cancelled the lease of 13.5 acre plot meant for Grand Hyatt Hotel after the developer constructed residential apartments and sold them. The Islamabad High Court (IHC) also upheld the CDA’s decision.

BNP given year’s time to deposit Rs17bn installment

However, the Supreme Court (SC) restored the lease of the plot in January last year. In the short order, the apex court bench headed by former Chief Justice Saqib Nisar directed M/S BNP to immediately pay the installment and held that “in case BNP commits default.., CDA shall have a right, after giving 30 days notice to terminate the lease”.

The SC restored the lease, directing the firm to pay Rs17.5 billion to the civic authority over eight years.

Those who purchased the apartments built on the land meant for the luxury hotel include Prime Minister Imran Khan, former chief justice of Pakistan Nasirul Mulk, Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Ehsan Mani, Khawaja Mohammad Asif and Federal Ombudsperson for Protection of Women Against Harassment at the Workplace Kashmala Tariq.

The PAC adopted the report for the revival of the lease agreement of the multi-storey under-construction building meant for Grand Hyatt Hotel at One Constitution Avenue though it was not on the agenda of the meeting.

PML-N Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed pointed out that the first installment date, which was due after a year, was Dec 31, 2021. A PAC member, Noor Alam, on the other hand, said the developer had nothing to pay therefore he should be given ample time to clear the outstanding dues.

Rana Tanvir Hussain endorsed Alam’s view and adopted the report regarding the settlement.

On Oct 7, the PAC chairman had pointed out that since the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had clarified that pendency of proceedings before it did not bar CDA to act according to law and since no direction was given by NAB to the civic body to stop its proceedings, CDA was at liberty to proceed as per directions of the Supreme Court.

It was decided that both the CDA and the developer should implement the judgement of the Supreme Court and execute a letter of re-adjustment to give effect to the decision if reviewed subsequently by the apex court.

“It was further directed by the PAC that directives in compliance of august Supreme Court of Pakistan decision be implemented without “ifs” and “buts”, a CDA letter read, adding that a meeting between the builder and the civic body was held on Nov 3 and it was decided that the decision of the apex court be implemented in letter and spirit subject to final outcome of the review petition filed by both parties.

It further said the builder had agreed to give a payment schedule of the outstanding amounts as the apex court’s decision of Jan 9, 2019; with the condition that the time limit determined by the top court will not be extended.

As per the payment schedule, the developer will pay six installments of Rs2,916,666,667 on Dec 31 every year starting from next year till 2026 and deposit Rs17.5 billion – Rs1,227,352,500 has already been paid out of the total amount.

The PAC also examined the audit reports of the Petroleum Division and Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) for the year 2019-2020.

The committee chairman pointed out that billions of rupees recovery of the Petroleum Division had been stuck up since the private parties tend to engage expensive lawyers against lawyers on the panel of the government sector, suggesting that services of well-known lawyers be engaged.

Secretary Asad Hayauddin informed the committee that the Petroleum Division had suggested to the prime minister and the provincial government that variation in the price of local gas and the RLNG be adjusted in order to use both fuel to cater to the rising demand of the consumers during winter.

He expressed the hope that with the local gas and RLNG mix, shortage of fuel would be overcome.

Rana Tanvir Hussain suggested that instead of village gasification, the distribution companies should focus on existing consumers to address acute gas shortage in the harsh season.

Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2020

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