Dam fund at Rs16.35bn, work 'hit by floods'.

ISLAMABAD -- The Supreme Court was inforAmed on Thursday that various factors, including recent floods and Covid-19, delayed the construction of the Mohmand and Diamer-Bhasha dams for at least nine months to a year.

In addition to the natural disasters, development funds have also not been released by the government to help ameliorate the equity injections on part of Wapda for the construction of the dams.

Headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, a five-judge bench was told that the dam fund created in 2018 by then chief justice Saqib Nisar has increased to Rs16.35 billion - this value will increase to Rs16.98 billion in a few months when the funds deposited in the State of Bank of Pakistan's (SBP) investment schemes get matured.

A representative of the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) - a financial agent for the utilisation of the funds - also assured the apex court from Karachi that not a single penny had ever been taken out of the amount deposited against the government securities or used to meet any expense from this head.

Subsequently, the CJP asked Auditor General of Pakistan Muhammad Ajmal Gondal to coordinate with SBP to oversee the management of the funds. He also observed that the funds would not be used for repairing the flood damage but only for the purchase of machinery necessary for dams.

The CJP reminded the auditor general that one of his representatives had told parliament that he did not have any access to information about the funds. 'Now since the access is available, please do (audit) it quickly,' CJP observed.

The direction came against the backdrop of media reports that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) intended to write a letter to the Supreme Court seeking information about the dam fund.

The Supreme Court also directed its IT department to place all the information on its website regarding the dam fund for transparency.

'Availability of financial resources'

During the hearing, Advocate Saad Rasool on behalf of the Wapda chairman told the court that due to the pandemic, a number of international experts had to go back which was delaying the projects. One of the major concerns was the availability of financial resources to fund the projects, he added.

Two primary payments had to come during the last quarter, the counsel contended, adding for Mohmand Dam, the government earmarked Rs25 billion under the head of the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) but Rs12.5 billion were approved.


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