Freeze costs, specifications, timelines before taking up projects: Mehbooba

SRINAGAR: Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has directed R&B Department to make advance preparations so that work on the newly-sanctioned five medical colleges is taken up immediately, for which funding by the Union Health & Family Welfare Ministry is expected shortly.
Mehbooba also suggested certain alterations in the existing design of the medical college buildings so that they are in conformity with the site locations where these are being established. She also passed instructions to the R&B Department to incorporate provision of rainwater harvesting in all future buildings to be constructed.
Mehbooba directed all executing agencies to take up projects only after costs, specifications and timelines are frozen by the indenting departments.
In order to inculcate healthy competition, the Chief Minister suggested that the work on construction of new medical colleges be allotted to different executing agencies like JKPCC, PHC et al.  She also passed directions to make State Roadways Development Corporation a self-sustaining organization by allotting them important works.
She added that the government cannot afford any cost overruns and delay in completion of projects which creates lot of hardships for the people. “The Department also needs to prepare a list of works to be prioritised this year, as we have a very limited working season at our disposal,” she added.
The Chief Minister said this while chairing a high-level meeting to review the functioning of the R&B Department.
Besides the Minister for Public Works & Parliamentary Affairs, A. R. Veeri, Chief Secretary, B. R. Sharma, Financial Commissioner, Planning & Monitoring, B. B. Vyas, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, Navin K. Chaudhary and Commissioner/ Secretary, R&B, Rohit Kansal, also attended the meeting.
Expressing concern over cost escalations and inability of the department to complete projects on time, the Chief Minister said that all indenting departments should henceforth consult the executing agencies beforehand so that projects’ cost, specifications and timelines are frozen.
On the direction given by the Chief Minister regarding empanelment of expert consultants for fast-tracking preparation of DPRs, FC P&M said a Committee has been framed which will speed up engagement of experts so that projects take off on time. He also suggested reducing post-receipt tendering period, which will enable early allotment of work contracts and avoid cost escalations.
The Secretary R&B informed the meeting that MoRTH (Ministry of Road Transport & Highways) is expected to release a further tranche of Rs.4000 crore this year which will enable the department to take up new projects and upgrade existing ones over the next three years. He added that against a total release of Rs.702 crore under State Annual Plan in 2015-16, Rs.698 crore have already been expended under regular schemes.
To bring in more efficiency and quality in works, Mehbooba Mufti asked the R&B Department to streamline procurement of bitumen and cement, availability of which are critical to the completion of projects within stipulated timelines. She also asked the Finance Department to explore the possibility of creating a revolving fund which provides the much-needed leverage to the R&B Department to meet its urgent requirement on procurement side.
She also directed R&B Secretary to chase release of funds with MoRTH for speeding up construction of 500 bridges, indicating that a fund corpus of Rs.500 crore within CRF will enable the department to complete all these schemes.
The state is expected to receive a kitty of Rs.350 crore this year under PMGSY which will help in upgrading the rural connectivity to a great extent.