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RAWALPINDI, Sept 4: Construction work on the Rs2.6 billion Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology (RIC) is almost six months behind schedule due to delayed release of funds.

The project to establish the 270-bed institute was approved in October 2009 and the construction work started in June 2010. At the inauguration of the project, Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif had promised that the institute would be ready within a year. However, because of the slow pace of work, this deadline could not be met.

The project layout suggested that the building would cost Rs940 million while over Rs1.12 billion was earmarked for the purchase of equipment. It is to be a state-of-the-art centre where cardiac surgery, paediatric cardiology and surgery, angiography and radiology facilities will be available.

Health officials told Dawn that the project was scheduled to be completed by end of June this year. However, due to shortage of funds, it missed the time frame. They said the provincial government had released Rs540 million in September 2010 but failed to provide Rs400 million that were promised to be released by June 2011.

The funds were eventually released in July this year and the project is expected to be completed by end of December 2012. The officials said the Punjab health department also failed to purchase equipment for the institute.

When contacted, Commissioner Rawalpindi Zahid Saeed said civil work on the institute was almost complete and the health department was now procuring heating and cooling equipment.

Most of the equipment will be imported and this will take time. He explained that the health department was purchasing the system from a Japanese firm but the latter failed to deliver the consignment as per schedule because of the devastating earthquake in Japan.

As a result, the contract was cancelled and now a Korean firm has been selected for procurement of the equipment.

“The Korean firm is providing the system at a lower cost and is willing to provide a warranty for repair and replacements in case of faults. Now that progress is underway,” the commissioner said, expressing the confidence that the RIC would be completed very soon.

He also highlighted the significance of the project, saying it would provide better health facilities not only to people in the Rawalpindi division and adjoining areas but also those coming from Azad Kashmir and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Health officials also said the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) forced the provincial government to reduce the height of the building as it would create problems for the incoming and outgoing aircraft at Islamabad airport.

It may be noted that the provincial PML-N government has failed to complete a number of projects. It announced the launch of four mega projects in the health sector during the last three years but work started only on the cardiology institute.

It is also strange that the chief minister laid the foundation of the mother and child hospital costing Rs800 million in the garrison city in November 2010 without preparing its project concept-I (PC-I).

Sources told Dawn that the health department would likely complete PC-I of the project by the end of December. They said the government had allocated Rs3 billion for the construction of an institute of urology and kidney transplantation at Shamsabad but work on the project was yet to be started.

Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Rawalpindi chapter's spokesman Shujaat Haider Naqvi said the PML rulers sitting in Lahore had the habit of making false announcements for public welfare.

He said the provincial government had also announced construction of a flyover over Benazir Bhutto Road from Faizabad to GHQ in 2008. But it has failed to start work on it so far.

Jamaat-i-Islami (JI)'s Malik Azam also criticised the provincial government and said it should complete important projects like hospitals. He claimed that the PML-N government only made announcements about launching mega projects to gain public support during by-elections in the city last year.