LAHORE - The ministers will finally move to the controversial ministers’ block which had been abandoned for more than eight years.

The present government did not like to shift the ministers in the building adjacent to People’s House and near Punjab Civil Secretariat because it was constructed by former Chief Minister Ch Pervaiz Elahi, now a leading member of the opposition.

The finishing work, purchase of furniture and other relevant preparations are underway, an official said. The government will allot the offices to the provincial ministers and some of the advisers and parliamentary secretaries who are having their offices in different departments and Old Ministers’ Block in the Civil Secretariat, the official affirmed. At present, there are 21 ministers, 38 parliamentary secretaries and two special assistants to the CM, an officer pointed out.

Sources in the Services and General Administration Department (S&GAD) further told this scribe that a proposal was under consideration after the present government’s move to privatise the complex failed for many reasons, including opposition from the S&GAD. An officer of the (S&GAD) told this scribe that purchase of furniture for offices and other finishing work was being carried out.

Talking about details of the project, an officer of the S&GAD told this paper that the Planning and Development (P&D) Board, at 29th meeting of the Provincial Development Working Party (PDWP) last year, approved Rs 851.189 million for the finishing work of the purpose-built complex. Moreover, the government has earmarked Rs 15 million for the same purpose in the current fiscal year 2015-16.

The P&D approved the amount on the proposal of S&GAD that had also opposed the move to sell this building having 48 office suites.

The PML-N Punjab government in 2008 had decided to privatise the block and convert the Chief Minister Secretariat at 8-Club Road into Information Technology University for Women, both built at an estimated cost of Rs 730 million and Rs 900 million, respectively, an officer revealed. He added the decision was taken back after a poor response from the bidders. They had shown reservations over the high reserved price fixed by the Privatisation Board and its location, he held.

The Privatisation Board had fixed Rs 1.225 billion after carrying out assessment in collaboration with the Communication and Works (C&W) and Board of Revenue (BoR) departments.

A committee had also recommended that the building constructed for a specific purpose should be used for public sector offices.

The PML-N government had approved the privatisation of the block even after the report.

The opposition parties in Punjab had also criticised the Shahbaz Sharif government’s plan to sell the state-owned property and building as the government had completed all formalities to sell it.

It is relevant to mention here that the construction of the block had begun during the regime of former Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi at an estimated cost of Rs 600 million that later rose to Rs 730 million. But the PML-N government, treating the block unnecessary and a waste of money, decided to sell it out. By this time Rs 380 million had been spent on the main structure of the complex. The total cost on the construction would rise to Rs 1.23 billion.