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October 7, 2019

CDA seals work on mega project worth billions for being ‘unsafe’

Top Story

October 7, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Thousands of government employees and ordinary citizens are facing prospects of losing lifetime savings worth billions of rupees they invested in a housing project in the federal capital.

The project is now “sealed” by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) after instances of widespread corruption, rampant violation of rules and procedures, manipulation of documents, misrepresentation of facts and false declarations are found in the reams of paperwork now available with The News.

PHAF and consultants who need to be charged for manipulation of documents, misrepresenting facts, false declarations and corruption resulting in loss to public money and making 3200 families homeless who dreamt of having home in Islamabad.

Official documents prove corruption and incapability galore within the way Pakistan Housing Authority Foundation (PHAF) - a department under Ministry of Housing - dealt with the project ever since its launch in 2016. There are serious concerns about the safety of the entire project – 3200 apartments – in Sector I-12, raised repeatedly by people involved in the construction of the project. Efforts are already on to brush the gross inefficiency under the carpet. Corrective measure are still possible to arrest the ruination of the dreams of 3200 families, who aspired to have a roof over their heads, the official paperwork reveal.

The PHAF launched the scheme for government employees in Islamabad’s Sector I-12 in 2016 consisting of 3200 apartments and so far has gathered billions of rupees from public through booking of these apartments. The Foundation hired the services of M/s Mienheardt Ltd as consultant in November 2015 for design and supervision services of I-12 apartment building project. The design scope was to be completed in 90 days including the NOC for the project from CDA. Tenders were to be floated for construction of nine packages worth approximately Rs9 billion - one billion rupee per package – once the NOC was secured. Tendering process was completed by April 2016 though there was no NOC from the CDA in place.

It is worth mentioning that some of the building blocks are being raised when a natural stream flows right through the middle of it all without taking into consideration that Margalla Tower tragedy in 2005 earthquake had similar issues regarding the suitability of the land.

The construction works were delayed till November 2017 as designs were not ready nor the drawings were available with the contractors for 15 months. Some contractors raised concerns on the design of buildings but PHAF and consultants did not address their reservations rather instructed them to carry on work saying it was not their responsibility. As per official record M/s Mienheardt designed these buildings on bearing capacity of 0.75 tons per square foot which is far below than the required bearing capacity for structures of this kind. As now 50 percent work has been completed and after some of the officials of PHAF have been replaced by Minister for Housing who carries a very good reputation. M/s Mienheardt was asked to submit design calculations on the bearing capacity as claimed by them in bearing capacity reports/certificates provided by them to PHAF and CDA on 0.75 tons capacity and also hundreds of drawings issued for construction for last two years.

Upon being stressed, this time by PHAF, finally consultants have confessed that design is unsafe on 0.75 tons capacity. It was also found that PHAF rather vetting done from an independent consultant as per rules of Planning and Development Division and PPRA , paid Rs3.2 million to M/s Mienheartd Ltd for getting their design vetted from some CDA approved consultant over and above Rs180 million paid to them for design and supervision services. Some favourite contractors were given benefit of more than Rs65 million only in foundation work by the engineer of contract appointed by PHAF who is heading team of consultants’ M/s Mienheardt. Criminally, the structure designer of the project who is signatory of all drawings, certificates of the project is not an employee of M/s Mienheartd as per record of Pakistan Engineering Council. As the consultants failed to get NOC from the Capital Development Authority, the CDA sealed all record of PHAF submitted to CDA and also stopped construction sites on September 26, 2019. It has been learnt that efforts are being made in PHAF to hide these facts from Secretory and Minister Housing and Works.

A report and recommendations in which termination of consultants and recovery through NAB should be conducted, is held up by PHAF chief engineer, who has also sanctioned payments of this project in billions after her posting in PHAF as well. Some officers are being forced to change the report and facts or else a separate report will be prepared to save officials of PHAF and consultants who need to be charged for manipulation of documents, misrepresenting facts, false declarations and corruption resulting in loss to public money and making 3200 families homeless who dreamt of having home in Islamabad.

Director Engineering PHA-F, Muhammad Zaki, when contacted, confirmed that he had submitted a confidential report to Chief Engineer on October 1 in which he pointed out that structure of buildings at Sector-12 is unsafe at bearing capacity of 0.75 STF.

He said that consultant designing firm M/s Mienheardt in designs sent to contactor and PHA-F show bearing capacity at 0.75 STF. He said that as Director Engineering it was his responsibility to ensure that structure of buildings is safe for living.

The official pointed out that there could be some remedial measures to strengthen the structure. Zaki said there could also be third party evaluation if the consultant firm now claims bearing capacity at 1.35 STF.

Structural designer Saad Saood from M/s Mienheardt who signed the stability certificate contended that there was nothing wrong with structure. He said that for the last one month, some people having their interests were spreading wrong information which are against facts.

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