Turkish firms’ employees protest assets ‘illegal’ takeover by LWMC

Published December 23, 2020
This file photo shows rubbish strewn on a road in Lahore. — Photo by M Arif
This file photo shows rubbish strewn on a road in Lahore. — Photo by M Arif

LAHORE: A number of workers, including drivers, helpers and members of office staff of two Turkish companies — Albayrak and Ozpak — staged on Tuesday a protest demonstration against the Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC) for “forcibly seizing” the firms’ valuable machinery and equipment, besides taking over the workshops and field offices on Sunday.

The contractors’ employees chanted slogans against the LWMC and in favour of Pak-Turk ties while holding placards.

The Turkish contractors’ top officials, including Albayrak Project Coordinator Cagri Ozel, Ozpak PD Afzal Shah and others concerned also joined the protest.

Talking to the media on the occasion, Mr Ozel said despite the contractors having court stay orders for machinery and the workshops, the LWMC “illegally attacked” their workshops.

Waste management company to manage sanitation work on its own

“During the intrusion, the LWMC and officials of the city district government and police confiscated the machinery worth Rs4 billion. We also wonder if the LWMC was not satisfied with the performance of its contractors, why extensions in contract were given to us,” he complained.

Mr Ozel further said though the both Turkish companies would keep serving the Lahorites till the completion of the contract on Dec 31, during the past two years, they were not even paid complete payments.

“The LWMC has yet to clear our Rs2.5 billion dues. But despite all this, we didn’t halt the field operations in Lahore,” he said.

To a question about the contractors’ “obligation” to handover the machinery to LWMC with expiry of the agreement, Mr Ozel said there was no such clause in the agreement.

On the other hand, the LWMC officers headed by the managing director told a press conference on Tuesday that the company took over the complete cleanliness operation in the city.

“The international contract is expiring soon and we have decided that the LWMC would conduct the entire cleanliness-related operations on its own in a more transparent way. The local contractors can also participate,” MD Imran Sultan told journalists.

He said the LWMC had taken over the machinery in the best interest of the public and the government, and would clear the entire backlog.

“As per the contract with the Turkish contractors, all the machinery at the end of the agreement will be owned by the LWMC. Furthermore, according to the letter issued by the NAB, this machinery will also remain with the LWMC. LWMC has made all the payments to the Turkish contractors as per the forensic audit report and saved around Rs2 billion,” he claimed.

He said the department would ensure effective and exceptional cleanliness arrangements in the city and clear the entire backlog before Dec 25.

He acknowledged that over the past eight years, the Turkish contractors introduced a modern sanitation system that was widely appreciated by the government.

Meanwhile, an LWMC spokesman said: “As per a forensic audit report (2012-19), the LWMC was asked to recover Rs7bn from the [Turkish] companies for not fulfilling their contractual obligations. However, they (contractors) were of the view that these paras were related to the LWMC. The contractors kept insisting the LWMS should clear the dues (Rs2.5bn) despite the forensic audit observations.”

The LWMC had terminated the contracts nine days before the stipulated time, seizing the machinery despite facing resistance and starting the cleanliness operation on its own from Dec 21.

As per the LWMC claim, the move was made with the consent of the contractors. However, the claim was rejected by both contractors as they threatened to move local and international courts in this regard.

Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2020

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