ISLAMABAD   -    Contractors employed to run four toll plazas on Mianwali-Muzaffargarh Road (N-135) are involved in overcharging of toll rates but instead of cancelling their contracts, the National Highway Au­thority is only issuing warning letters.

The four toll plazas located at Fate­hpur, Chowk Sarwar Shaheed, Khan­sar and Mianwali were awarded to M/s Ghous Bakhsh Buzdar, M/s IK Enter­prises and M/s Pervaiz Ahmed Bhatti respectively for next three years from 1st July 2022.

Mianwali-Muzaffargarh Road was a provincial highway and recently it was federalised and given under the control of NHA. It was decided at the time of its federalisation that the same toll as ap­plicable on provincial highways would be charged by NHA till the improve­ment of the said road.

Later, the NHA board also approved that the same provincial rates would be taken from the commuters till im­provement of the road network.

It is pertinent to mention that NHA toll rates are about 50 percent high­er than the rates applicable on provin­cial highways with respect to differ­ent categories of vehicles. For instance, NHA is charging Rs250 for articulat­ed trucks but provincial highways are charging Rs150 in the same category.

When the aforementioned toll pla­zas were presented for bidding, over a dozen contractors were in the running to win the contract but they were con­fused about the toll rates and the same ambiguity was also highlighted by a contractor in the pre-bid meeting.

The NHA officials categorically clar­ified in the approved minutes of the meeting that the provincial rates, which were already applicable on the route, would be collected by the suc­cessful bidder.

According to the sources, most of the potential bidders made their financial calculations according to the provin­cial rates but three bidders clouted and gave very high bids. Resultantly, they won the contract to operate these four toll plazas, which was astonishing for the rest of the players.

However, the actual ‘under the table’ settlement surfaced when the success­ful contractors started to charge high toll rates on these toll plazas and mys­teriously the field office remained silent over this illegality for about two months and the concerned general manager did not even reported the overcharging is­sue to the headquarters.

But, later when citizens approached the road authority and complained that contractors are charging high toll rates and requested to ensure imple­mentation of actual rates, NHA came out of hibernation. Though, NHA head­quarter responded to the complaints but at the snail pace apparently to give a favour to the contractors, who pock­eted millions of rupees in the last two months by overcharging of toll rates.

The Directorate of Revenue called the contractors into the office of mem­ber finance on 19th August 2022 and directed them to charge agreed rates and the same decision was conveyed to the regional General Manager Mainte­nance N-135 for implementation.

He was directed by NHA headquarter to make sure that the original toll rates be affixed on all toll plazas and he must ensure that the same rates be charged by the contractors.

However, according to the locals, be­sides passing two months, the contrac­tors are still charging high rates and they did not bother to comply with the directions of NHA headquarter.

When contacted, the Director Pub­lic Relations NHA Sohail Aftab said he will respond after consulting the con­cerned directorate and later he replied that the concerned general manger has confirmed that there were complaints of overcharging by the contractors.

He however assured that in next few days, the contractors would be com­pelled to charge actual toll rates sched­uled in the agreement but no answer is given whether recovery proceedings would be initiated against the contrac­tors for overcharging or not.