ISLAMABAD - State Minister for Communication Murad Saeed backtracked from his earlier decision to conduct a third party audit of five mega projects and assigned the task to the Auditor General of Pakistan instead of engaging the services of a fully independent private auditing firm.

He had made a commitment earlier that a special audit of those projects, which faced a delay for many years in their completion through an independent auditing firm.

While talking before a Senate body, he informed that the said delay in the completion of projects caused a huge price escalation and possibly it was happened due to a nexus between the contractors and government officials.

There is a multi-layer audit system in the country. The 1st party audit or internal audit is carried out within the institution while the 2nd party audit or external audit is carried out centrally by the Auditor General of Pakistan however the 3rd party audit is generally conceived as a special audit by the private auditors.

However, the minister on Tuesday wrote a letter to the Auditor General of Pakistan and requested to conduct a special audit on five selected projects of National Highway Authority (NHA) and submit the final report within thirty days.

It is stated in the letter that the said projects were inordinately delayed, causing price escalation and other adverse effects on governance.

The projects, which are purposed by the minister to be audited by the Auditor General includes a 16km long Layari Expressway, 151km long Khuzdar-Shahdadkot (M-8), 193km long Gawdar-Turbat-Hoshab (M-8), two tunnels of 8.5km and 1.9km long at Lawari Tunnel (N-45) and a 226km long Kalat-Quetta-Chamman (N-25).

The Lyari Expressway was started in May 2002 and the completion date of the project was November 2004 however the same was completed in January 2018 with almost double spending as the original cost of Lyari Expressway was Rs.5.081bn but it was completed in Rs11.521bn.

The deadline for the completion of Khuzdar-Shahdadkot and Gawdar-Turbat-Hoshab projects was October 2006 and September 2006 respectively however a revised deadline May 2018 and February 2016 was given letter.

The Lawari Tunnel Project was initiated in September 2005 and it was planned that the project would be completed in September 2008, but the same was completed in July 2017 with a price escalation from Rs.7.983bn to Rs.26.85bn.

When contacted, a senior officer of the ministry of communication explained that a third party audit needs a handsome amount to engage the services of a reputed firm and there were also some legal limitations.

He however commented that there is nothing irregular in these projects because mostly projects delayed due to the non-availability of funds. "The AGP carries out the routine audits of NHA and it has a better knowhow of these projects so that is why the task is assigned to them," he argued.

Similarly, the construction work on Kalat-Quetta-Chamman (N-25) road was commenced in February 2006 and a deadline to complete the project was December 2008 however it was completed in December 2016 with a price escalation from Rs6.671 billion to Rs19.140 billion.