Irregularities detected in contracts for repair work of historical sites in Sindh

KARACHI: Renovation of historical sites in Sindh has become a profitable business for the officials of the antiquities and archaeology department. Millions of rupees are allocated and utilised for the repair and refurbishment of historical sites. However, due to sub-standard repair work, the condition of these sites deteriorates after a few years and repairs are required once again, for which funds are again allocated and released, resulting in a never-ending cycle.

Everything does not seem transparent with tenders worth around Rs200 million recently awarded by the government for the repair of 25 historical sites in Sindh. Funds allocated for archaeological sites are reportedly misappropriated through poor repairs or low-quality renovations. However, this time the procedure adopted for granting tenders also gave birth to suspicions.

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The tenders for the repair work of historical sites were issued by one office while the address for obtaining the documents was of another office, which suggested that the authorities wanted to create difficulties for the contractors seeking to win tenders.

According to official sources, the contracts were awarded to preferred contractors. These contractors had their licensed registered with the Pakistan Engineering Council after the contracts had been allotted. Sources also revealed that the experience of the contractors was not considered while awarding the contracts. The chosen contractors did not have any prior experience of working on archaeological sites.

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The historical sites for whose repair the contracts have been awarded include Moomal Ji Mari in Ghotki, the Buddhist stupa in Mirpurkhas, the Buddhist stupa in Benazirabad, Barhamanabad in Sanghar, Lakhueen Jo Daro in Sukkur, Shadipali in Umerkhot, the tomb of Mian Yaar Muhammad Kalhoro in Dadu, Tijar Building in Larkana, Chatori Graveyard in Mirpurkhas, Bhodesar Temple in Tharparkar, Sonda Graveyard in Thatta, Kalankot Fort in Makli, Nawab Ameer Khan Mosque in Thatta, the birthplace of Mughal emperor Akbar in Umerkot, Chaheen Jo Daro in Nawabshah, Qadir Bukhsh Ja Quba in Khairpur Mir and others.

It has been revealed that instead of the workforce of the contractors working at these historical sites, employees of the archaeology department are performing the repair work.

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It has also been pointed out that work on Rs200 million renovation projects was broken up into different contracts. As per the rules and regulations of the Sindh Public Procurement Authority, it is not allowed to break up one contract into multiple contracts. Dividing one project worth Rs200 million into many contracts, using separate offices for issuing and receiving tenders, awarding contracts to inexperienced contractors and posting employees of the archaeology department instead of the workforce of the contractors lends credence to suspicions that through these contracts, an attempt has been made to siphon off a huge amount of money.

When contacted, Archaeology Department Director-General Manzoor Kanasaro denied the allegations of irregularities in the project and said the suspicions were ill-founded. He claimed that the contracts for the renovation of heritage sites had been awarded on merit.

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