Officials left red-faced as PM Shehbaz refuses to launch flood relief dashboard

Published October 3, 2022
<p>Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s refusal to inaugurate a dashboard to monitor flood relief assistance left federal ministers red-faced on Monday. — DawnNewsTV</p>

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s refusal to inaugurate a dashboard to monitor flood relief assistance left federal ministers red-faced on Monday. — DawnNewsTV

<p>Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif speaks at an event to launch a real-time dashboard to monitor flood relief assistance on Monday. — DawnNewsTV</p>

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif speaks at an event to launch a real-time dashboard to monitor flood relief assistance on Monday. — DawnNewsTV

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday issued a rebuke and expressed visible frustration after finding inadequacies in a dashboard built to monitor flood relief assistance, pointing out that it lacked real-time updates and was not of international standards.

The prime minister left federal ministers Ahsan Iqbal, Aminul Haque, Marriyum Aurangzeb and Tariq Bashir Cheema red-faced as he refused to inaugurate the event and remained seated as he outlined his primary objection with the dashboard — designed by the IT ministry — saying that it was not being updated in real-time.

"If real-time information doesn't arrive in this then it's of no use. Then we are wasting each other's time. I'm not going to inaugurate this today," he said when informed that data from the meteorological department was not yet integrated with the dashboard.

"This should be trashed," he said, calling it a "joke". "I'm not negating your effort but this is not the dashboard we all imagined. This is a stationary thing in which you fill in figures."

The prime minister mentioned a different dashboard that monitors dengue hotspots and said it provided "active information" and was based on a "proper structure".

At one point, Iqbal tried to placate the premier by reasoning that the information on the portal could not be displayed in real time because it was dependent on information from the provincial disaster management authorities.

However, Shehbaz cut the minister midway, "but sir [...] you will find out who is providing the information and who is not [...] at best, this can be called a static dashboard."

"But still, dashboards are a work in progress [...]," Iqbal, once again, tried to pacify the prime minister. "They have developed a tool in a short time but as we go on more data will be uploaded."

But Shehbaz was adamant that the dashboard couldn't meet international standards and failed to show the colossal damage suffered during the floods.

"This (flood dashboard) is not something the nation or I want. It lacks in many ways [and] it is deficient to our requirement," the prime minister said as he reprimanded the officials concerned.

He also complained that the dashboard was not fast enough, adding that a lagging portal would not reflect the loss suffered due to the floods as well as the government's efforts to mitigate their fallout.

The prime minister said that with upcoming international conventions and moots on the horizon, he wanted the dashboard to be of a certain standard and in line with modern expectations.

Here, Haque assured the PM that all his instructions had been noted. "We will try to modify this [the dashboard] and make it better. I request you to inaugurate it today and we will make it better," he said.

The IT minister also went up to the stage to talk during the official briefing ceremony.

Subsequently, Shehbaz suggested that the project could be "provisionally" launched today but officially launched next Monday after incorporating his suggestions and criticisms.

The prime minister was assured by the officials that they would resolve the issues he had outlined and convert the dashboard into a real-time platform in a week's span.

Shehbaz told the two federal ministers to take all the help they needed but develop a "world-class" dashboard, adding that it would aid the government for decades to come and any "makeshift" work would be of no benefit.

The prime minister also took updates and briefings on various flood-related topics from officials at the event.

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