PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s failure to clear over Rs500 million dues of the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) operators has caused fears of the suspension of the bus service, which caters to 300,000 commuters in the provincial capital on a daily basis.

Officials told Dawn that the BRT operator Daewoo Pakistan as well as the privately-owned LMK-Resources Pakistan, which is responsible for intelligent transport system, fare collection and station management, had taken up the issue with the provincial government for early resolution.

They said the provincial government owed over Rs500 million to both companies.

The officials said the government company TransPeshawar, which owned the BRT, had the required funds at its disposal but “political interference” in its affairs was to blame for the delay in payments.

Officials say TransPeshawar has funds to clear dues, while more money in the pipeline

Caretaker transport minister Shahid Khan Khattak expressed ignorance about the matter.

“You need to talk to the additional chief secretary in whose domain lies the issue of funds,” he told this correspondent.

The documents available with Dawn show that Daewoo took up the dues issue with TransPeshawar on April 27 and May 17.

On May 23, the company formally requested caretaker Chief Minister Mohammad Azam Khan to get its dues cleared by the company.

“This petition is being initiated to draw your kind attention towards an alarming issue, which if not urgently resolved, may adversely affect the interest of people of Peshawar, by depriving more than 300,000 people from transportation service, affecting their livelihood and domestic activities,” it said.

The company said that under the terms and conditions of the respective agreements with TransPeshawar, the provincial government was bound to release payments against monthly invoices within 10 days of each month.

“However, in violation of agreements and despite repeated demands and reminders, our invoices have not been cleared and presently an outstanding amount of Rs450 million approximately against invoices of February, March and April 2023 is payable,” it said.

Daewoo also said that it had already raised serious concerns to the relevant authorities on April 27 and May 17, but no response was received until now.

“We also had meetings with the chief secretary and chief executive officer of the TransPeshawar. However, the issue has not been addressed,” it said.

The company pointed out that though the requisite funds were available with TransPeshawar, the payment to them was being unnecessarily delayed.

“The project requires significant injection of funds for payment of procurement of diesel, lubricants and parts besides payment in lieu of electricity and salary expenses which can only be met if timely payment as per contract are disbursed,” it said.

The company also said that non-payment of Rs450 million was causing severe financial burden on them and if the same continued, they were afraid about not being able to operate the service due to lack of sufficient funds, which may badly affect the project.

“Foregoing in view, your kind indulgence is required to resolve the issue of overdue payment in order to ensure smooth operation of the projects. You are requested to kindly direct the official concerned to immediately overdue payments,” it said.

In another letter to the CEO of the TransPeshawar on May 17, the BRT operator warned it would suspend the bus service from May 23 if due payments were not released.

In a letter to the CEO TransPeshawar, LMK-Resources Pakistan noted that it had deployed over 1,800 staff members at the BRT system and they included those responsible for operating ITS, automated fare collection and bus scheduling system, station management, data centre, control centre and other auxiliary centres as well as subcontractor staff responsible for ticket sales, customer service, security, and cleaning service.

It added that the majority of its subcontractor staff members were employed on the minimum wage.

The company said under the contract, its monthly payment would be made by the 15th of every month for the preceding month but it had been facing unprecedented delays.

“We have conveyed our concerns to the TransPeshawar while requesting it to resolve them. Until now, we have been able to manage the financial burden on our end and ensured timely payment to our subcontractors, preventing any disruption in the service. However, it is becoming increasingly challenging to sustain things,” it said.

On the other hand, sources claimed that the TransPeshawar had hundreds of millions of rupees at its disposal, while its request for additional funds was also in process.

They added that payment delays were meant to renegotiate the BRT contract or issue a new one.

The sources said that the TransPeshawar CEO had informed the provincial government in writing about the “pressures exerted on him.”

The CEO didn’t respond to the repeated phone calls and text messages.

Published in Dawn, May 27TH, 2023



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