Doesn’t timely payment and honoring financial commitments come under the head of good governance? The contractors are demanding payment as they are in default of suppliers. Isn’t this circular debt in the making? The government owes the State Bank and Contractors, the contractors owe their laborers and suppliers, the suppliers owing someone else. Such defaults have a domino effect and further enhance chances of corruption.
Contractors rally for dues
Dawn, June 30, 2010
LAHORE, June 29: Scores of government contractors on Tuesday took out a procession to demand payment of their outstanding bills which, they said, were not being cleared, creating economic problems for them.
Federation of Contractors Association president Habib Kanwal, Maqsood Butt and others also held a news conference at the Lahore Press Club, threatening to take direct action if the government failed to clear the outstanding bills of especially those small contractors who needed immediate encashment of their cheques to make payments to suppliers of building materials or labour.
The procession was taken out from McLeod Road and culminated in front of the press club. A number of contractors took part in the procession.
Carrying banners and placards and raising slogans they condemned the financial managers of the provincial government for what, they said, creating problems for them.
They demanded that the chief minister intervene and ask the officials concerned to immediately clear the bills.
Speaking at the news conference, Mr Kanwal and others said the government should have pity on the contractors who could not deposit their cheques with the quarters concerned on June 18 (districts) and June 25, and entertain them on Wednesday so that they could realise their funds they had utilised for conducting government’s development projects.
“There is still time to entertain the cheques of contractors by 12 noon on Wednesday as they could get their payments cleared from commercial banks through special clearings by the evening,” Mr Kanwal said.
He said payments to those who were able to submit their cheques within the deadline, had almost been made. But there were hundreds of contractors who could not avail the opportunity and were now in a great trouble. He said such contractors were to get nearly Rs10 billion from the government, and if their bills were not cleared by Wednesday evening, they would be made to suffer a great deal.
Replying to a question, he said the bills would ultimately be cleared. But this would take a lot of time, making the contractors to run from pillar to post to get their payments. “They immediately need money they have utilised for the government to make further payments to the suppliers of building material and their labour,” he said.
Many contractors were facing threats or cases from the suppliers of building material because of their inability to clear their bills. The most affected were the small contractors whose credibility was also at stake, he said.
He said the contractors would take direct action if the government failed to clear their bills. “The federation will soon announce its next course of action,” he said.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Punjab finance department said the department did not withhold any payment of contractors. All payments were being made according to the schedule, he said.
He said all quarters concerned had been directed to submit their cheques till June 25 to AG office or district accounts offices. The payments were being made to those who had submitted their cheques by June 25 and no payment had been stopped in this connection.
The spokesman said more than Rs5 billion had been paid on Tuesday. The amount allocated for development works could not be used for any other purpose, he said.