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PAC to open formal probe into delays

  • Guatam Buddha Int’l Airport project
- Madhav Dhungana, BHAIRAHAWA

Sep 6, 2017-The parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has decided to launch a formal investigation into delays in the upgradation of airport project in Bhairahawa as uncertainty over completion of the project within the extended deadline looms large. The project completion deadline has already been extended twice.

The airport in Bhairahawa, gateway to Lumbini is being upgraded to an international airport.

More than three dozen of lawmakers of the PAC have flown to Bhairahawa to hold public hearings and question the concerned officials and contractors over the delays. Tourism Minister Jitendra Narayan Dev, however, skipped the public hearings.

“The project is facing a big problem. It needs a serious investigation from the beginning,” said lawmaker and former Finance Minister Bishnu Poudel.   He directed the project to prepare the White Paper on the state of the project and submit it to the PAC within 15 days. Poudel said that all the stakeholders of the project, including the contractor, needs to be summoned at the PAC meeting to clarify whether the project could move ahead. 

The airport was originally slated to be ready in December 2017. However, shortages of fuel and building materials due to a Tarai banda in 2015 delayed works by six months. The operation deadline was pushed to June, 2018. The project had to face another setback in March after a dispute aroused over payments between the contractor and an illegally appointed sub-contractor that brought the project’s progress to a halt. Now, the project completion deadline has been pushed back to 2019.

The dispute over payments between the Chinese contractor Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group and the Nepali sub-contractor Northwest Infra Nepal has stalled works at the construction site, achieving not even 1 percent of the monthly progress in the past six months. By the third week of July, the project had achieved a meagre 26 percent physical progress. The dispute is yet to be resolved. The sub-contractor is headed by former PM Jhala Nath Khanal’s son Nirvik.

“We have been listening that the contractor of the project had submitted fake documents to bag the project. A detailed probe needs to be carried out. And if it’s true, all stakeholder involved in the project will face action,” said Poudel. 

Rajan Pokhrel, deputy director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan), said that the Chinese company has performed poorly. The contractor has been issued several “notice to correct”. “Now, we have given a certain days for the contractor to improve its performance. If it fails to deliver, Caan will initiate process to breach the contract.”

PAC Chairman Dor Prasad Upadhyay said they have decided to hold another meeting at the Capital and would issue appropriate orders to the concerned ministry and project.

Recently, the project funded by the Asian Development Bank had hired international contract management experts to analyze the risk of terminating the contract with the non-performing firm.

Published: 06-09-2017 08:40

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