Orange Line agreement terms can’t be shared: commissionPakistan
LAHORE: The Punjab Information Commission has declared that information about the Pak-China agreement on the Lahore Orange Line Metro Train Project cannot be provided as it is a federal issue and the Lahore High Court has also denied its disclosure.
Information about the executive and administrative decisions with approvals for execution of the agreement also cannot be provided due to the same reasons, the commission has declared, questioning nevertheless the inclusion of confidentiality clause in the provincial government’s agreement with the Chinese bank that is giving loan for the project.
It has said that ultimately, the government would have to disclose the documents about the commercial and financial agreements with EXIM Bank of China alongside details of repayment, and mark-up and consequences of delayed payments.
Therefore, the officials concerned should immediately seek “no objection” from the bank or have the agreements with it amended within two months so as to disclose information not prohibited by the information law. The bank must be consulted to allow it to protect its interests.
The respondents must decide which parts of the agreements can be withheld under the law while the remaining parts of the agreements should be disclosed.
The commission gave the decision on Wednesday while disposing of a complaint lawyer Azhar Siddique and others filed on June 16 this year alleging that the Punjab government’s officials concerned had not provided them the requested information in response to their applications and reminders under the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013.
It has declared that while signing contracts, the government must give due consideration to the compelling public interest in transparency of official transactions and must not agree to terms, which are in conflict with the Constitution or the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013.
Any terms and conditions about confidentiality, which are agreed upon with local or foreign organisations, must have a strong justification in the context of interests protected in the Act, the commission says.
The commission says that while replying to a question the respondents (government) had confirmed during the hearing that the Orange Line’s loan is soft. However, no specific document has been identified in the application, which could be provided. So, the complainants may file a fresh application by providing description of the documents that may contain the information that they need.
It says the complainants should be provided with information about the tendering process for execution of EPC (engineering procurement contact), appointment of consultant, evaluation reports confirming the experience of local contractor, as according to Managing Director PMA through an affidavit before the LHC no liability of EPC contracts and their works shall be transferred on CR-NORINCO, the main contractor.The commission has ordered the respondents to provide all documents relating to the process of appointments of two experts from the private sector for a study of control of vibrations, invoice and foundation undermining for protection of heritage sites, and for heritage impact assessment.
The questions about reliance on Nespak report on vibration effects, chief minister’s claim of saving Rs78 billion and documents about direct or indirect linkage of the train with CPEC, and reasons for making the project as harvesting project of CPEC are either not specific or are about reasons, and that the respondents are not required to provide their opinion when the questions are about reasons, and not about information documented in record, the commission says.
Therefore, it orders, the respondents should inform the complainants in writing, where applicable, that the information does not exist in recorded form and, therefore, it cannot be provided.
Where the questions asked are vague or not specific, the complainants may file fresh applications by providing description of information or documents that they need.
It has asked the government to provide the information ordered by it by Dec 27.
Published in Dawn December 15th, 2016