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The World Bank closed a $200 million project in Pakistan due to irregularities

Daily Dawn London/Dawn TV

ISLAMABAD: The World Bank has closed its locust emergency and food security (Leaf) project, for which it had approved $200 million, citing the performance of the project as highly unsatisfactory.

The project was approved in July 2020 and it was meant to control the locust outbreak, restore livelihoods in locust-affe­cted areas, and stren­gthen national food security and monitoring in the country.
Informed sources beli­eve the World Bank withdrew the project due to irregular appointments made under the project.
The Ministry of National Food Security, which was to implement the project, had appointed 86 entomologists in the Department of Plant Prote­ction (DPP) for the locust and invasive pests control and management project in March 2023. The implementation rep­ort of the project prepared by the World Bank says the project activities had not commenced and no disbursement had been made.
Since the project has been closed, the ministry terminated the services of 86 entomologists hired for the Leaf project in the Depart­ment of Plant Protection in Karachi. The terminated employees have appealed to the ministry against the abrupt termination of their services and payment of outstanding salaries of nearly seven months.
The employees said they continued their services in DPP from July 2023 to January 15, 2024, and were assigned duties and tasks. They said neither the plant protection adviser nor the DPP director-general or the secretary of the ministry iss­u­ed any directives, eit­her verbally or in writing, to discontinue their services. However, on Jan 17, 2024, the employees were abruptly informed verbally that their services would no longer be required in the project.
They said the DPP did not provide the mandatory one-month notice to them for termination of services and no valid reason was also provided for the sudden move.
They urged the government to adhere to the Sup­reme Court’s verdict and protect the interests of contract employees.

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