Forensic agency’s training lab in limbo


–Negligence causes delay in procurement of PFSA’s under-construction laboratory equipment

–78% equipment procured; rest halted due to fluctuation in dollar price

LAHORE: Owing to the improper planning and negligence of higher-ups, the Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA) failed to procure the complete laboratory equipment for the establishment of its training lab.

According to sources, PC-1 worth Rs 252 million was approved in 2017 for a project titled ‘Procurement of Laboratory Equipment for Establishment of Training Lab at PFSA’; however, the procurement of equipment was not fully achieved due to fluctuation in US dollar that now stands around PKR 140, and some of the equipment was installed for demonstration/analysis in PFSA’s existing facility.

The Directorate General Monitoring and Evaluation (DGM&E) has recently issued a monitoring report over the project according to which the main objective of the project was to train human resource in the field of forensic for PFSA, Drug Testing Laboratory, Punjab Agriculture Food and Drug Authority (PAFDA), drug testing labs or any other such kind of labs which would be built in future in Punjab.

“Similarly, it was also aimed to train the officers/officials of various law enforcement agencies including police, prosecutors, judiciary, medico-legal officers, NAB, Rescue 1122, defence forces, Counter Terrorism Department, PAFDA and officers/officials of law enforcement agencies of other provinces.”

The report further states, “The physical targets of the project were to procure the equipment for general laboratory, analytical instruments, spectrometry, DNA instruments and kits. About 78% of the mandatory samples analysis equipment was procured and rest is halted due to fluctuations in USD exchange rates and revision in PC-1, (as at time of submission of PCI for DDSC’s approval the cost approved of PC-1 was rationalized as per USD prevailing rate 106PKR that further increased by 111PKR in Nov/Dec 2017, and is on verge of all-time high currently. The budget utilization is 94.83% against total revised cost of PC-1, and remaining procurement is expected to be fully procured by June 19.”

The report further reveals, “Since the scheme was planned for three months at start (April-June 17) after the admin approval issued in March 17, the gap was generated in release of funds that hit the system in December 17. Though the contract was awarded afterwards but the heavy fluctuations USD rate especially in mid of 2018 and onwards lagged the achievement behind. The absence of operating training facility is also a bottleneck as the equipment procured and arrived are almost non-operational, hence disintegrating the project with its planned objectives at large.”

Similarly, the recruitment of scientists construed as training coordinators is also underway. However, vide the referred note for Secretary to CM dated Sep 9, 2016 by PFSA it is observed that in the corresponding subject there are 12  number of posts whereas, the request for approval by competent authority is for ten number of positions.”

While giving its recommendations the report says, “Pending procurements need to be closed immediately, as the dollar at time of LC opening stood at Rs 111 whereas according to the trend in USD versus PKR exchange rate fluctuations as per the figure below, of six months shows that the price has escalated to 140PKR from 123PKR/USD.”

The report inferred that “if the procurement gets delayed further, there would be an emerging need of second revision of PC-1, ultimately adversely impacting the financing and operational side of the scheme.”

It was suggested that “the construction of training facility needs to be up and running shortly so to achieve the project objectives in full.” Meanwhile, the report also discussed that the forensic agency is facing problems in the recruitment of scientists.

The PFSA spokesperson could not be reached for comment.