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Problems in contract, corruption behind incomplete Speen Jumat

Problems in contract, corruption behind incomplete Speen Jumat

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Mar 28, 2019 - 16:39

JALALABAD (Pajhwok): Reconstructioninfo-icon work on the historic Speen Jumat (White Mosqueinfo-icon) in eastern Nangarhar province could not be completed in the past seven years due to lapses in the contract and alleged corruption, Pajhwok Afghan News reliably learnt.

The mosque suffered cracks and damages as a result of an earthquake back in 2013 and was demolished on the directives of the local administration for the purpose of reconstruction.

The historic mosque was built during Amir Abdul Rahman Khan’s era inside the Royal Palace.

Amount $9,699,570 has been donated by businessmen and others for reconstruction of the Speen Jumat, a radio station and a library.

But a court ruling suspended the mosque’s reconstruction after reports of alleged corruption and embezzlement of funds.

Former Governor Hayatullah Hayat almost three months back tasked a delegation headed by Deputy Governor Tamim Arif Momand to investigate the claims of alleged corruption and that why the reconstruction work of the historic mosque could not be completed quickly.

But Pajhwok Afghan News has found that the main problem lied with the contract besides negligence and incompetence by officials.

Dr. Shamsul Haq Mujahid, executive head of the Nangarhar Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber and businessmen had mutually agreed to charge 300 afghanis on every truck loaded with trade items at Torkham for the reconstruction of the mosque.

He said the process of collecting funds was launched in 2013 and ended in 2016, but he did not say how much money was collected during the period.

Mujahid said they have not yet decided on renewing their support for the reconstruction of mosque but a meeting of the chamber and businessmen had been called to take a decision in this regard.

Progress on construction of mosque

Fazal Wahid, head of the contract holding company, said so far 50 percent reconstruction work has been completed at a cost of $50 million, adding the government was yet to provide any support.

Meanwhile, Deputy Governor Tamim Arif, who heads a joint delegation for investigation into reconstruction activities of the mosque, said 20 to 25 percent work had been completed on the mosque while over $1.2 million had been released to the construction company.

He said a transparent survey with the help of engineers was conducted on all reconstruction works of the mosque with the help of professional engineers which showed 20 to 25 percent work had been done.

He said over $1.9 million had been spent on the work and more than half of this amount had been provided to the company in installments. He said the government owed $686,674 to the company.

The deputy governor said people claimed the company owed them 3.5 million USD, but the company owner in response to different queries from the governor’s house acknowledged in a letter it owed $4.6 million and in another letter it said the company owed $5.2 million but in a detailed document the firm confirmed it owed $3.7 million.

Problem in the contract

Documents obtained by Pajhwok cite latency in the construction process and corruption as major issues in the contract.

The contract for the mosque’s construction was signed between Gul Agha Sherzai, then Nangarhar governor, and Fazal Sharq Builders Company in a village and at a very low level, thus paving the ground for corruption in the project.

The multimillion USD contract was signed on a simple white paper and in a traditional way and no engineering rules were considered.

Contracts like this should to be signed with companies with good backgrounds and strong financial guarantee as well as their financial resources specified, but the contract was awarded to Fazal Sharq Builders Company which has no money for guarantee and neither has any background in the construction sphere.

Based on the contract, the company has to use its own resources for the completion of up to 15 percent of construction work of the mosque, but the company received more than half of the money for completing 20 percent work on the project.

A copy of the contract obtained by Pajhwok did not show when should the construction work on the mosque begin and when it should end.

It also lacks clarification from what source and based on which condition and date the company should receive the money.

Judicial organs’ view on the project

Nangarhar appellate court officials say they had received only one case regarding the Speen Jumat mosque and that too in recent past.

Abdul Wali Qazizada, head of Nangarhar appellate court, said money was collected for reconstruction of the mosque from drivers at Torkham port, but the project now faced with serious corruption.

On February 28, the Anti-Corruption Justice Center (ACJC) referred a corruption case regarding the mosque’s project to Nangarhar primary court, blaming an official of the governor’s house, deputy head of Torkham customs office of the time, a commissioner of the customs, an officer of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and some senior officials of the governor’s house of the time.

For its limited authority, the court referred the case to the major crimes court a week after receiving it, Qazizada said.

Mohammad Wali Hashemi, Nangarhar appellate attorney head, said four individuals including owner of the company had been accused of corruption in the case which was under process in the major crimes court.

Provincial council accuse former officials of negligence

Nangarhar provincial council member, Israrullah Murad, said only superficial decisions were made regarding the contract for the Speen Jumat.

He said officials of the time had committed grave negligence in the project that led to rampant corruption in the construction area of the mosque.

“The mosque is still incomplete while four governors have changed in Nangarhar province”, he said.

Ajmal Omar, another provincial council member, asked the officials concerned to end the controversial mosque issue.

Civil societyinfo-icon activists want the corrupt punished

Noor Agha Zwak, a civil society activist who had served as advisor to the ex-governor Gul Agha Shirzai, said that the construction work on Speen Jumat was started by Shirzai based on the demand of Islamic scholars, people and civil society activists.

He said at the time some traders were asked to financially support the reconstruction as well as work responsibilities but after the governor changed, the reconstruction work of the mosque was stopped and later the project was plagued by corruption.

He demanded punishment for all those individuals involved in corruption so others learn a lesson.

Shakib Sharifazi, another civil society activist, told Pajhwok the issue had caused a historic lost to the province and the government should to take measure to address the matter.

Sharifzai added corruption in the mosque project not only damaged the province integrity but also hurt the mosque’s historic importance.

Fresh decision of the provincial administration

After investigation into the mosque case by the deputy governor Tamim Arif Momand, the newly appointed governor Shah Mahmood Miakhail directed cancelation of the mosque’s contract and said the rest of the work would be led by the government.

However, he did not mention which ministry or administration would take charge of the rest of work but promised the construction work would be re-launched soon.

The governor bestowed the mosque administration to Maulviinfo-icon Mohammad Daud Mujahid, the Hajjinfo-icon and Religious Department head and strongly promised to help him in this regard.

However, the mosque contractor firm officials and lenders of the firm termed the governor’s decision as illegal and said until their money issue was not resolved, they would not accept the governor’s decision.

Fazal Waheed, the Fazal Sharq builders firm’s head, told Pajhwok the provincial administrative should first give the money of individuals who bought construction materials before making any decision in this regard.

He said they would show strong reaction against the decision and would not let the contract to be cancelled.

Awal Khan, who claimed the contractor owed him 9.5 million afghanis, said the decision was absolutely unacceptable. He added they provided loan to Fazal Wahid for the sake of mosque and asked how he would repay the loan if he lost the contract.

But Nangarhar Governor Shah Mahmood Miakhel said the findings of the joint commission showed the contractor had spent $1.9 million and had received $1.2 million. The government owed him $600,000 but only 42.16 million afghanis were available in his bank account, he added.

He said the government would pay the remaining money to the contractor and others could pursue their case in judicial and justice organs.

He informed they would share the issue of lender with the Presidential Place and it would help them in case of possibility.

The officials of the provincial attorney general office and the appellant court expressed similar views and said the lenders should resolve their issue through judicial bodies. However, the work on Speen Jumat has stopped.

nh/mds/pk/sa/ma

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