ISLAMABAD - The Central Development Working Party (CDWP) has deferred 17 projects for the approval of the next elected government as the interim government was not mandated to approve new projects or projects with extended scope of work or cost escalation.

The CDWP under interim government have no authority to approve new projects and has only the mandate to grant extension to the ongoing project, consider PC-II or revised PC-I with no cost escalation or increase in scope of work, official sources told The Nation here Monday.

Out of the total 18 development projects, as well as concept clearance cases, presented to the CDWP, only a revised PC-II for the capacity building of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Power Development Organization worth Rs47.775 million was approved.

The Ministry of Planning and Reforms has sought the view of the Election Commission of Pakistan regarding the mandate of the of the interim government for conducting the CDWP meeting.

According the ECP, the CDWP under interim government can only have the power to grant extension to the ongoing project or consider revised PC-II of the projects, or revised PC-I with unchanged scope of work and no change in cost.

However the approval of new projects or revised projects with escalated cost or extended scope of work was not the mandate of the interim government, the official said.

For example the official said in the ministry said that that Peshawar Metro Project (BRT) was forwarded to the CDWP with the cost escalation of Rs 19 billion and with extended scope of work. The CDWP has therefore didn't approve it.

Similarly the position paper of Bhasha Dam was also presented where the cost of the project was decreased from the earlier Rs474 billion, approved by the CDWP during the previous government.

If the interim government was well aware of its mandate then why they have convened the CDWP meeting as it has cost losses to the national exchequer, the official said.

The official said that there were 18 projects for which dozens of government officials from across the country travelled to Islamabad. Who will pay for their travel expenses, accommodation, and food etc, the official questioned?

Meanwhile the spokesman for the Ministry of Planning Development and Reforms said meeting of the CDWP commenced in the Ministry of Planning Development and Reform under the chairmanship of the Deputy Chairman/Minister for Planning Development and Reform Dr Shamshad Akhtar. Senior officials of the federal/provincial governments represented their ministries/departments.

The spokesman stated that out of the total 18 development projects, as well as concept clearance cases, only a revised PC-II for the capacity building of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Power Development Organization worth Rs47.775 million was approved while the other projects belonging to energy, transport & communications, water resources, physical planning & housing, manpower, governance, agriculture and food, and nutrition sectors were deferred for the next CDWP meeting likely to be held under the newly elected governments.

In her opening remarks, Shamshad stated that the CDWP was one of the important forums to undertake, review and approve the new projects as well as to revise ongoing development projects.

She further maintained that the caretaker government had a limited mandate hence, the current meeting of the CDWP would not approve any new scheme but for the purpose to ensure continuity of the ongoing projects the meeting would only consider technical or financial revision of the project wherever it was necessary.

The spokesman of the planning ministry said that CDWP is a broad based well represented forum for review of ongoing and the new projects along with their cost. The forum carefully reviews projects and discusses financial, social and environmental implications of the project before taking a decision. Delays in processing of projects result in cost over runs which is very well known. Holding of CDWP is a normal practice and one of the regular functions of the Planning Commission, which cannot be stalled on the basis of any functional presumptions.

The spokesman said that the projects being considered have national, provincial, regional and sectoral importance. Certain projects qualify for multilateral and bilateral assistance which are necessary to be considered in view of lending agencies, board meetings, further delays could result in program/ project slippages. There are apprehensions of diversion of funds from country's portfolio or delays till next year having a toll on public need and cost.

The spokesman said that some projects on the agenda were already approved which are just a continuation of previous CDWP considerations and guidelines. The spokesman said that this is to further maintain that all the work is being done in the best public interest in line with the mandate and essential requirements.

The advice from the Law Ministry also allows us to proceed with the CDWP for the projects that are necessary or ongoing.

There is no diversion of fund involved as forbidden by the Election Commission of Pakistan. The Election Commission of Pakistan will be approached if so required in any case, the spokesman said.