LAHORE: A $250 million “Punjab Intermediate Cities Improvement Investment Project (PICIIP)” launched in 2018 is lagging behind its scheduled completion due to ill planning and procedural delays on the part of different departments resulting in rising with the cost of the project.

The project is aimed to transform the selected urban areas into green, inclusive resilient and competitive smart cities with improved livability supporting social and economic growth through improved municipal governance, integrated urban planning, improved service delivery, efficient local mobility, and climate-resilient infrastructure and the introduction of IT for city services delivery improvement within the framework of a smart city.

The project was proposed to be financed through an ADB investment lending program facility, with a loan from ADB of $200 million and a Punjab government contribution amounting to $50 million.

The Punjab Directorate General Monitoring and Evaluation Planning and Development Board conducted the monitoring and evaluation of the project. The report available with Dawn states that the project was planned to complete till June 30, 2023, but still after the lapse of almost four years the project has achieved almost 34 per cent progress which is behind the schedule.

The project is facing many issues like NOC from different departments, shifting of utilities, city congestion, huge traffic flow, non-availability of sites, court stay cases etc, which indicates inefficient preliminary planning and suffering the project progress badly and this will ultimately affect the cost and time of the project.

The project was launched for the improvement of urban transport and traffic management infrastructure and services including bus terminals, stands and services, traffic signalling and signage, roadside works and road junctions but till the time of visit, these activities were not carried out.

The PICIIP programme director was kept on changing almost every six months and financial matters were disrupted and caused slow progress of work. The project involved excavation and refilling of soil after laying of sewers and conduits but at the time of the visit, it was observed that record regarding surplus soil was not maintained and no such data were shared with the M and E monitoring team director-general.

The report also included recommendations about the project that the PICIIP be executed on time to avoid cost overruns and a strong monitoring mechanism is needed to ensure the completion of sachems without further delays.

The soil should be properly supported by lateral supports, and to ensure safety, the site should be properly barricaded to avoid any kind of mishap. To ensure the compaction of the soil, field density tests should be conducted at the substantial completion of each layer of the road as per specifications.

Resident consultants must ensure the execution of work at the site per standards/specifications and also ensure rejected/not approved work has been executed again by the contractor and department higher authorities should play their role to expedite the process of NOCs, and provision of a site for work so that the pace of the work can be improved.

It states that a signatory role should be assigned to a regular person to ensure smooth payment to the contractors. To save the public exchequer, the next phase needs to be started/ initiated after the implementation / completion of this phase. To vet the engineering estimates, The Local Government and Community Development Department’s engineering staff should be responsible as the major stakeholder. To gear up the progress of work for the schemes under PICIIP, the M and E DG may provide assistance through monitoring. Quarterly visits to sites may be suggested in this regard.

Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2022

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