LAHORE - The financial kickbacks in the procedure of awarding contracts to favorite firms bypassing set rules and regulations continues to take its tolls in Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA). The officials working on senior posts in the PHA are learnt to be involved in the misappropriations unchecked since long. As the authority concerned including the Housing Department and Punjab government are unmoved to take cognizance of the growing irregularities, the PHA big wigs are full active to secure high commission by awarding projects to hand-picked companies setting aside prescribed rules of pre-qualification as well as open bidding. Recent contracts awarded regarding the uplift of beautification of existing fountain structures besides monument and surrounding triangles at Qurtaba Chowk at Jail Road costing Rs 1.5 billion and securing the services of a legal firm on a two-year contract against a hefty remuneration of Rs 450,000 per month, have exposed the financial irregularities of PHA senior officials. Sources in PHA revealed that its officials including Director General Raheel Ahmed Saddiqi, his PSO Mozzam Nazeer, Additional DG Ashraf Yousafi and Director Administration Pervaiz Akhtar were involved in hush money. They awarded the contract of Qurtaba Chowk to the advertising company namely Synergy headed by Ambreen Sipra flouting the rules. The sources said as per rules, only an Engineering firm or a company registered with the competent authority could be awarded the construction project. But Synergy, which is merely advertising company, was awarded the Qurtaba Chowk project. Meanwhile, all sort of construction projects, except those that require gigantic workload and some technical complexities, are carried out by giving advertisement in the newspapers, mandatory under the law, for open bids from interested candidates. However, the said project, which did not involve large-scale operation, was awarded to Synergy without adopting the process of open bidding. Synergy, that is blacklisted and banned by cantonment board and Karachi due to its bad reputation in terms of working relationship and other affairs, managed to secure the Qurtaba Chowk project by providing illegal gratification to the PHA top guns, the sources added. The sources further said since the inception of PHA, companies were being awarded projects under the terms and condition that construction and maintenance work of landscaping, facelift, beautification, and rehabilitation of roundabouts, roads, parks and other areas would be executed by the PHA. While the entire cost regarding construction with its regular upkeep will be paid by the companies concerned. And in return companies will be allowed to advertise its products for certain period free of cost, the sources maintained. Much to surprise in case of Qurtaba Chowk, the sources disclosed that PHA had singed a 3-year agreement with Synergy that entire cost of construction standing at Rs 1.5 million would be paid by PHA which actually it did till the completion of the work. So much so, the sources said the PHA director marketing was the sole authorised to strike an agreement with such companies. However, in the particular case, the director admin came forward to do so. Reason behind the anomaly was that the director marketing denied doing illegal work, the sources claimed. PHA officials are reported to have minted huge money in another project of hiring the legal attorney bypassing rules and without seeking approval of the competent authority. The sources informed that PHA had hired a legal company against a hefty remuneration of Rs 450,000 per month. The experts say, if there is need to bring certain changes in rules of business, the department concerned is bound to move a summary for relaxation of rules in certain matters, which was then approved by the chief minister, if he desires so. However, the official sources alleged that rules were not followed in this particular matter of hiring a legal service provider by the PHA. When contacted, PHA Director General Dr Raheel Ahmed Siddiqui said PHA followed all rules laid down by the Planning and Development. He said it was up to the department whether it adopts open bidding or pre-qualification process to award any project to national and multinational firms. In case of Qurtaba Chowk, he said PHA enlisted Synergy in PHA panel after it got pre-qualified passing through legal procedures prescribed as per rules. He further said that PHA was pursuing various modals with regard to awarding projects to firms. One modal say company will pay all cost and maintenance of project. Second modal say PHA will pay the cost of the project while company will pay the maintenance charges. Third modal say that company will pay the cost and PHA will pay maintenance charges. About case of legal firm, he said that PHA had been hunting for a reputed legal firm to dispose of cases at earliest and effectively. Therefore, he said, the PHA had hired a reputable legal firm of its choice from the market after duly approved by the competent authority, though preferred not to choose lowest bidder in response to advertisement in the newspapers using open bidding process. While explaining, he said if advertisement was given in the newspapers, then lot of applicants could have come on lowest bids or even be ready for providing legal services free of any charges, and then earn millions of rupees from this platform by selling PHAs interests. The source said this happened not for the first time rather the racket of senior officials of PHA was also active in the tenure of ex-PHA DG Mustafa Kamal Pasha. As many as seven construction work under model road project costing Rs 2.2 million were awarded to different firms bypassing the open biding and pre-qualification process.