LAHORE: Failure of the ousted Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government to post a new managing director of the Punjab Safe City Authority (PSCA), has adversely affected this multi-billion rupee high-tech initiative, causing a plethora of issues, including non-completion of various projects and lack of maintenance of its existing infrastructure.

The top slot at the authority had fallen vacant after the transfer of the then MD Rao Sardar Ali Khan, who was later appointed as inspector general of Punjab Police in September, 2021.

Since then, the PSCA was being run by its chief operating officer (COO) who is currently holding multiple charges, including additional charge of the MD, a post designated for a BS-21 officer of additional IG rank.

Recently, Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz, in his inaugural speech after taking oath of his office, had expressed his serious concern at the poor state of affairs of the PSCA.

An official told Dawn that three senior police officers in BS-21 and four others in BS-20 have shown their interest in the top post of the authority.

Of them, he says, the BS-21 officers have no experience of working at the PSCA, a multi-billion rupees IT-based project which required technical expertise and a sound background in the related fields to run it.

He says the appointment of new MD would be made by the chief minister on the recommendation of a committee comprising chief secretary, inspector general of police, additional chief secretary (home) and Services & General Administration Department secretary.

The committee will send a summary carrying names of the candidates to the cabinet committee which after approval refer it to the chief minister for final consideration.

The official says the Safe City Project was launched in Lahore and Kasur by the PML-N government in its last tenure in Punjab (2013-18).

In Lahore, the PSCA was to install cameras at 133 new sites, he says. However, the project awaits completion since 2020 due to the issues related to operations, maintenance and litigation by the authority’s management.

Similarly, he says, much-hyped ‘facial recognition system’ is not working properly, while more than 30-40pc cameras have developed faults due to poor maintenance by the PSCA present management and technical team.

He says the remaining cameras also go dysfunctional during power outages because of their faulty batteries. As a result, he says, in many cases the crime scene evidences are not recorded, creating serious problems for the investigators and the complainants.

He says that because of 40pc of the PSCA cameras going off-line, the E-Challan wing of Lahore’s traffic management system was also being affected badly.

The situation has resulted in lesser revenue, more accidents and speed violations by the vehicles, rendering the city roads unsafe, he regrets.

The official says the PSCA has been claiming since launch of the project that it has the most advanced telecommunication system in the country. However, 4G advanced/LTE sites are reportedly lacking electric backup due to which E-emergency calls were reaching the police too late, he adds.

In addition, he says, many small but important functions and applications of the PSCA were also not working satisfactorily.

He says the incumbent PSCA management has also failed to announce any new project.

The official wondered that despite this situation, the PSCA management has returned Rs500 million of its budget to the government last year, instead of utilising the amount timely to complete the pending projects and spending it on maintenance of the cameras.

Furthermore, he says, the construction work has also been stopped at PPIC3 centres for Multan, Rawalpindi, Sargodha, Bahawalpur, Faisalabad, Gujranwala and Dera Ghazi Khan.

On the other hand, PSCA COO DIG Kamran Khan says the projects could not be completed due to multiple factors, including the heavy workload and complex contract awarding procedures.

“These mega projects were left incomplete due to the huge volume of work and the cumbersome process of awarding contracts,” says Mr Khan.

He also blamed the Covid-19 pandemic for the delay in completion of projects, besides contract-awarding procedures like per-qualification and preparation of designs.

“We surrendered Rs500m to Punjab government because of delay in executing the projects and have decided to put a demand for the release of the same amount in the next fiscal year,” the PSCA COO says.

Published in Dawn,May 10th, 2022

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