ISLAMABAD - The commission constituted by the Supreme Court to ascertain the implementation of projects relating to 2005 Earthquake stricken District Manshehra raised serious questions over the performance of Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority.

The Commission observed that ERRA failed to even update its own project-related information. It is recommended that ERRA, which was established by former military ruler General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf after the earthquake, should hand over all the projects to the concerned departments

The Commission also observed that the diversion of foreign aid to the tune of billions of dollars to other sectors was a fraud to the victims of 2005 earthquake as the aid was taken in their name and for the purpose of their rehabilitation.

In March this year, the top court had initiated its proceedings on an application of resident of District Manshehra accusing the ERRA of looting the foreign aid of billions of dollars leaving behind the rehabilitation work in apathy.

The top court had formed a six-member Commission headed by one Muhammad Zeb Khan and also including representative of residents, representative of ERRA and representative of Mansehra Bar Association. 

“This Commission with a heavy heart makes the declaration that the state has failed to address the grievances of the quake-affected people of Mansehra and after a lapse of a decade they still face the same miseries and hardships which they endeavoured post the destructive October 8 of 2005 earthquake,” the Commission report stated.

The report submitted by Additional Attorney General Syed Nayyar Rizvi on behalf of the Commission observed: “The diversion of the foreign aid to other Sectors, districts & provinces is violation of the solemn pledge made by the State with the quake-stricken people of Mansehra. It in fact defrauded them as the aid was collected in their name and for the purpose of their rehabilitation.”

The Commission demanded of the government to come up to the legitimate expectations of the down trodden and quake-stricken people of Mansehra.

“The State ought to be honest, sincere and upright towards its citizens so as to say that the amount that was received as aid in the shape of loan and grants in the name of earthquake affectees should be spent on them for their rehabilitation.”

The Commission report further lamented that the fate of the mega project namely New Balakot City (NBC) is still in limbo. “There has been a total failure of coordination between ERRA, the District Administration and Police.”

The Commission reckoned this lack of coordination as inefficiency at par with criminal negligence for which all the officers holding key posts in District Administration & Police besides the elected Local bodies representatives are accountable. “Thus remedial actions under the law ought to be taken promptly and even-handedly,” it added.

In case of disbursement of cash and goods, the Commission finds the matter not amply and properly documented.

“We are of the view that on account of incomplete, discrepant and non-augmented record place before us of cash disbursement and kind there is prima facie room to probe by the Investigating Agencies,“ the Commission recommended.

It is transpired that the valuable construction machinery left by National and International Donors was also not enlisted in stocks of local government.

“This commission believes that proper documentation in stocks is maintained and there are considerable anomalies warranting a criminal investigation in this matter.”

The Commission also mentioned the facts which led to the stalemate of NBC. Neither the Provincial Government nor the Local Government took ownership of this mega project.

The key agency ERRA was not stationed at Mansehra, thus the remote execution of work was not manageable. There is total lack of coordination between the District Administration, Police and ERRA. PERRA did not play its part in execution of this project.

The selective and politically motivated acquisition and identification of land created a mistrust amongst the land owner’s vis-à-vis the acquiring authority.  ERRA ought to have devolved the execution of the project in order to infuse a sense of ownership. The District Police has failed to establish the writ of the State, the role of operation and investigation wings were not encouraging.

“The procedure of awarding of the contract, its terms and conditions are such that it precipitated the stalemate of NBC.”

“The matter of support of ERRA to District Police needs to be thoroughly investigated as during the Commission proceedings the District Police expressed outright ignorance of the existence of such support in the shape of vehicles, arms, ammunition and payment under head of salary,” the Commission added.

The Commission recommends a corporate setup for NBC on the lines as followed by the Defence Housing Authority.  The suggested Authority ought to work for self-sustenance by opening its commercial areas to investors in this way the liquidity crunch currently faced by the Government of Pakistan would not form an insurmountable impediment towards revitalizing this stagnant mega project, it added.

“The Commission expresses its concerns over the procedure adopted for awarding the contract of NBC. The different idling charges and flat rate of consultant costs doesn’t commensurate with the preservation of interest of NBC.”

It is further observed that the administrative and non developmental expenditure of ERRA vis-à-vis any other public sector department/ organization is such that it would require much better managerial practices of ERRA.

“For instance this commission observes with great concern ERRA has failed to even update its own project related information from the respective wings such as PERRA and SERRA and in turn from DRUs.”

“Thus this mal-management has resulted in pilferages, failure and stoppages. The government is advised to take appropriate action against the concern officials.”  This commission is of the view that as majority of the remaining projects are in its last stages while the government allocation to ERRA has shrunk, of the projects are being depleted on account of disinterest of the client departments to own the same.

“In this circumstance ERRA should hand over all those projects to the concerned departments which should be placed before the concerned provincial and local government for early allocation of funds and completion,” the Commission concluded the recommendations.