Conflict between Punjab, Turkish contractors deepens

The intensifying differences between the provincial government and two Turkish contractors over non-payment of dues and possession of machinery are resulting in large heaps of garbage lying unattended across major spots of the city, waiting for long to be lifted and disposed of by the Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC).

“No one has come to lift the huge heaps of waste for at least three days and we are forced to endure the stinking smell almost on a daily basis,” deplored Ishaq, a resident of Gulberg. “I have not aseen a worse cleanliness situation than this in this posh locality for years.”

Under the recently lapsed outsourcing plan, which remained in force from 2012 to Dec 2020, the LWMC used to get the city’s waste management carried out through two Turkish contractors.

This arrangement appeared to be working in keeping the city clean through modern mechanical sweeping, waste collection and disposal.

However, complaints against poor cleanliness started rising due to the deteriorating condition of the machinery, delays in payment of bills, mismanagement, initiation of inquires as well as fear of the National Accountability Bureau and anti-corruption authorities among senior LWMC officials, repeated transfer of managing directors and other issues, especially during the last two years. This led to disinterest in accomplishing various jobs on the part of contractors, vendors and LWMC officials.

Another major reason was the forensic audit conducted for the period between 2012 and 2020, which reportedly recommended recovery of Rs7 billion from the Turkish contractors for allegedly not fulfilling their contractual obligations. On this, the LWMC stopped clearing the contractors’ bills that piled up to over Rs3bn till Dec 31.

However, the contractors rejected the audit report and kept insisting the government clear their dues. In the meanwhile, a couple of weeks ago, the government with the help of the police took over the entire machinery and field offices of the contractors, claiming the same as government property under the contract.

“It was an extreme action of the government against the companies that belong to a country that Pakistan has very close relations with. The situation also invited the attention of Turkish diplomats in Pakistan besides international media in Turkey,” said an official source.

“The government should have resolved this issue instead of creating such troubles.”

The official, who requested anonymity, said a recent press conference by the government also irritated the Turkish companies who rejected the government claims on the issue. They also announced to take legal action against the minister who conducted the press conference (Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan) besides filing a contempt petition against the government and LWMC for using their machinery and offices despite stay orders.

On the other hand, the LWMC appears unable to lift and dispose of solid waste for several days since taking over the contractors’ workshops and machinery. No one within the company or the government seems bothered about the rising public complaints.

“Despite lodging complaints, no one from the LWMC is lifting the waste. This attitude is making this city, which was said to be one of the cleanest in Pakistan, the dirtiest,” said Arshad, a resident of Mughalpura.

He said the government should immediately resolve this issue on priority. A company spokesman said they were trying their best to keep the city clean.

“The bidding process for hiring new companies for providing machinery is under way on fast track. Hopefully, it will be completed within a week or so,” he claimed.

He further said the Turkish contractors should immediately nominate officials for resolution of disputes (billing, machinery etc) on their behalf. (Dawn)

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