Will the new broom sweep clean?

Lahore was clean. It is not so anymore. Lahore had a functioning waste management system. It is not so anymore. Lahore was envied by Karachi. It is not so anymore.

The road that led to this point is winding with twists and turns but not too long.

As begin most misadventures by this government, so did this one, with the positive intention of ending corruption and mismanagement inside Lahore Waste Management Corporation. Provincial Minister for Industries, Mian Aslam Iqbal, was given the additional charge of supervising waste management. Hearing of tales of corruption inside the LWMC, Aslam Iqbal sought written explanations. In reply, Chairman Amjad Ali Noon unleashed a barrage of accusations at the Minister himself. He sought time with the Chief Minister to complain about the matter. Unsuccessful in meeting Usman Buzdar, Amjad Ali Noon hit the jackpot when he met the Prime Minister himself. Till the last news poured in, Noon was not performing his departmental duties while Aslam Iqbal had restrained himself after the volley of attacks launched towards him.

There is still time for Chief Minister Usman Buzdar to take notice of the report handed over to him by the IT Department and the forensic report handed over to him by Auditor General’s office.

A problem that LWMC might have to confront sooner than later is that of the 14,000 workers enlisted under its banner, almost 5,000 are ghost employees. PSO provides almost 400,000 liters of fuel to LWMC, of which 315,000 liters are used while 85,000 liters remain unaccounted for. Who is hiding these details? And who will answer for the fact that appointments on higher positions were not made in a transparent manner? Where is the record for contracts given to private entities which would let us know at what rate is waste picked up from the city? What work were female socializers doing while they were hired to create awareness campaigns? Why was a war of allegations started as soon as a monitoring report was demanded? And why is the CFO reluctant to release the details of payments released to private firms?

Questions are being asked about why senatorial contracts were given at 59% higher than the set rates to a firm in Sargodha. About what is stopping Amjad Ali Noon and CEO Imran Ali Sultan are not acting on the forensics report themselves, which points the finger at many wrongdoings. And about who has threatened to file defamation suits, the details of which will be made public soon enough.

From 1947 till 1987, a team of 10,000 was employed to clean up the city. Daily wagers would look after a city of more than 3.5 million. Back then, Lahore was spread over 100 wards, dotted with an open drainage system. With time, the city was divided into zones. In 1990, eight deputy mayors were selected and 8 zones were carved out for them to govern.

In August 2001, the City District Government was founded, after which Lahore was divided into six towns, namely, Shalimar, Wagah, Daata, Gulberg, Nishtar and Iqbal Towns. After 2005, three more towns were added to the mic, Samanabad, Aziz Bhatti and Ravi Town.

Finally, in 2010, the Solid Waste Management Company came into being.

According to Aslam Iqbal, Lahore’s waste can be managed with just Rs. 7 billion per annum as opposed to the Rs 14 billion it is costing. If the employees hired for their jobs actually do what they are paid to, then the matter of ghost employees, too, can be settled. Vehicles can be monitored through video monitoring to cut down fudging in petrol allowances. LWMC can start the process of standing on its own feet instead of relying on foreign or private companies.

Lahore produces about 6,000 tons of waste daily. Corruption fudged this figure to 16,000 to 20,000 tons, costing billions more to the treasury.

Those in charge of cleaning the city are instead cleaning up the exchequer. Soon, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar may wake up from his slumber and dispatch these corrupt elements to the dustbin of history.

Shehzad Hussain Butt

The writer is GNN Lahore Bureau chief.

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