LAHORE: Due to financial misappropriation, a multi-billion project of the provincial government has turned in to the biggest scam in the history of Punjab. Khadim-e-Punjab Saaf Pani Programme was initiated with an estimated cost of Rs 300 billion for the people of Punjab, but “financial interests” of some officials have created hurdles in completion of this project of vital importance. Clean drinking water was one of the basic requirements for healthy living, while non-availability of clean drinking water could cause many diseases, especially in children. According to official survey reports, 79 percent water samples collected from rural areas of 12 districts in Punjab were found to be unsafe for human consumption, while 88 percent water samples collected from rural areas of 21 districts of the province were also found to be unsafe. Not surprisingly, mortality due to water borne diseases was very high in Punjab. Sources informed that a public limited company, Punjab Saaf Pani Company (PSPC), along with its implementation partners, was formulated to operate the Punjab clean water project. Around six months ago, the said company hired a consultant, G3 Engineering Consultants, for development of documentation, field survey, data collection and evaluation of contractors to execute this project, which was designed to facilitate 36 cities including Kasur, Patoki, Kot Radha Kishan, Depalpur, Chunian, Okara, Renala Khurd, Sahiwal, Chichawatni, Jaranwala, Tandlianwala, Chak Jhumra, Faisalabad Sadar, Sumandri, Alipur, Jatoi, Muzaffargarh, Rahim Yar Khan, Sadiqabad, Khanpur, Liaqathpur, Kot Addu, Tunsa, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur, Jampur, Rojhan, Dunyapur, Karor Pacca, Lodhran, Hasilpur, Khairpur, Bahawalpur, Ahmedpur and Yazman. Besides the master consultant, two other consultants, Crescent Consultants Consortium and Yooshin Group from Korea, were hired as partners to execute this project. A senior official of the company, on condition of anonymity, informed this scribe that G3 Engineering Consultants and two other partners were hired out of the way. The consultants, in connivance with senior management of PSPC, revised the consultancy fee to $1,000 million (Rs 1 billion), while it was initially decided by Punjab government that on successfully completion of consultation job by the consultant, Rs 500 million fees would be paid as consultation charges, he added. The official said PSPC invited pre-qualification applications initially on June 17, but later it was extended to September 8. Total 38 contractors participated in the pre-qualification process, out of which 25 contractors went down under during the pre-qualification process, as they failed to submit required documents during the initial submission. “Interestingly, out of 13 pre-qualified contractors, only four contractors submitted their bids for the project, while the remaining nine pre-qualified contractors stepped back from the bid submission process due to non-professional attitude and facilitation to blue-eyed contractors,” alleged the PSPC senior member. Also, out of 25 provisionally pre-qualified contractors, 13 contractors submitted proposals. The PSPC management and consultant allegedly accommodated its favourites and made changes in terms of reference one day before the date of submission of documents via an email, dated September 7, 2016, available with this correspondent. PSPC made these very important changes in basic data at the last day to facilitate few blue-eyed contractors, the official claimed. It is important to mention that any changes in such mega projects leave technical and financial impacts. Many companies would be unable to submit their proposals due to changes in ToRs one day before submission date; however these changes were helpful to only those blue-eyed companies who have all the information provided by consultant off the record to develop their proposals. Commenting on this particular matter, an officer of PSPC said that probably the entire process of data collection was made from the office chair despite sending teams into field surveys to collect the precise data. These continuous changes in TORs by consultants has raised a serious question on the overall process of hiring of contractors, as few contractors were given favours by consultant due to these changes, he added.