LAHORE - Inordinate delay in execution of Punjab Assembly extension project, that started in August 2005, has caused loss of over one billion rupees to the national exchequer, mainly due to poor planning, mismanagement and flaws in implementation by the concerned department, besides slow pace of work by the construction company. Official documents available with The Nation have revealed that the extension project was initiated at an estimated cost of Rs 1387.574 million in August 2005, and was to be completed within one year. The work was divided into two components - Scheme for Construction of Additional Punjab Assembly Building with an allocated amount of Rs 783.015 million, and Scheme for Construction of Extension of Punjab Assembly Building, for which Rs 604.559 million were apportioned. As per official documents, the administrative approval of both the schemes was granted on February 2, 2005 by the competent authority, while the contract for civil work was awarded to a construction company, Husnain Cotex, headed by owner of Royal Palm Golf and Country Club, also known for his strong connections with former president Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf and Chaudhrys of Gujrat. The work was to be started on August 15, 2005, but the company failed in doing so allegedly due to procedural delays by the Communication and Works (C&W) Department. It increased the cost, which had to be revised on July 17, 2005, from Rs 783.015 to Rs 800.100 million in respect of construction of Additional Assembly Building, and from Rs 604.559 million to Rs 636.724 million in case of the extension project. Talking to The Nation on Thursday, Mohsin Shakoor, an XEN of the building department, who is supervising the two projects, attributed first revision in projects cost to the change of rates before the start of work that started in July 2005, but the company could not complete the same within stipulated period of one year. It sought extension for another year to complete the task, which was duly granted by the government. Two years passed by, the company failed yet again to achieve the set targets. Consequently, the government had to revise cost of the project for the second time. According to official documents, the administrative approval for second revision of project cost was granted on June 7, 2007. As a result, the cost for extension scheme rose from original Rs 604.559 million to Rs 1013.741 million, while in case of additional building; it increased from original Rs 783.015 million to Rs 1320.764 million. An official of the department when contacted to know the reasons behind revising the cost for the second time ascribed it to increase in scope of work and delay in completion of civil work by the said construction company. Sources in Punjab Assembly confirmed that cost of scheme for extension of assembly building was also revised for the third time, taking it from Rs 1013.741 million to around 1200 million rupees, as the original idea of building glass dome had to be dropped due to non-availability of required expertise on part of the construction firms. Now, as per sources, a concrete dome would be built instead of the glass dome, tenders for which have been opened and three firms have qualified. Contract would be awarded to one of these three. It has been learnt that idea of building a glass dome was ill-conceived, firstly because, it had to be a bullet proof structure for security reasons, and such a material was not available; secondly, the required expertise to place a glass dome was not available in Pakistan, and even the foreign experts expressed their inability to do the same. Meanwhile, the government conducted a secret inquiry to ascertain the reasons for delay and resultant increase in the cost. The findings were not made public. The Nation, has, however, got access to this secret information. According to the report, work has been delayed due to poor planning and management of the firm. It also mentions the notices issued to the contractor for improving the progress, who started the work after a suspension of more than 8 months (July 2007 to February 2008). About the delay in respect of scheme for construction of additional assembly building, the document reveals that work on middle round portion of the scheme remained suspended for more than four months due to provision of second basement, which was objected by House Committee of Punjab Assembly. Consequently, second basement was removed. Pace of work remained slow and contractor could not meet the targets of 30th April, 1st of July and 5th of August 2007. It further divulged that a high-profile meeting presided over by then chief minister Pervaiz Elahi was held on 04-05-2007, and the firm assured the meeting that work would be completed by 30th September 2007. But this target was not met also. The report also mentions that the construction work remained suspended for more than six months during 2007 and 2008. It was only after repeated reminders that the firm restarted the work on the additional building from October 2007 and on extension of Punjab Assembly in March 2008. The reports says due to delay in completion of civil work, activities like HVAC ducting and false ceiling were also delayed, and funds for the year 2007-08 have already been utilised and further Rs 58.000 Million were demanded to keep up the pace of work. About causes of delay in completion of extension in Punjab Assembly building, the second part of the main project, which houses the main assembly hall, it has been stated in the official report that scheme was held-up for more than six months (from November 2005 to April 2006), when the main halls depth was increased from 15' to 38'-6' in the working drawings and House Committee of Punjab Assembly objected the arrangement. Consequently, depth was reduced to 30'. Another meeting with the chief minister in chair was held on 04.05.2007 in which the contractor promised to complete the work by 31.12.2007 but the target me the same fate. The dome structure was allotted on 12.03.2007 with a time limit of 5 months, but after more than 2 months the contractor could not establish the LC. Hence, the work was rescinded and earnest money amounting to Rs 9,68,000 of the contractor was forfeited. About the construction of glass dome, the report says, Consultancy services for glass dome, internal finishing of the hall and furniture / furnishing etc were advertised as per instructions of the Steering Committee (headed by chairman P&D Board) on 18.07.2007 but no firm was pre-qualified due to lack of relevant experience. Consultancy services were again advertised during January. The advertisement has been floated in the newspapers as per direction of Steering Committee during January 2008. Four firms have applied while evaluation of consultants is being underway by a committee under the chairmanship of secretary Punjab Assembly. Surprisingly, no action was taken against the construction company for causing the delay in completion of civil work, allegedly because of its owners connections with countrys top hierarchy. Resultantly, government had to suffer a huge loss of around one billion rupees due to phenomenal increase in cost. Despite the repeated attempts by this scribe, no responsible person associated with Husnain Cotex was available for companys version.