Lawmakers grill officials about spending in haste

  • SAARC summit preparations
- BHADRA SHARMA, Kathmandu
 Lawmakers grill officials about spending in haste

Nov 14, 2014-

Concerned over the fast-track tender approval of city beautification works for the upcoming Saarc Summit, lawmakers have asked the government to maintain transparency and quality of the projects.

An estimated Rs 2 billion is being spent on preparations for the summit and the lawmakers are worried about possible budget misuse.

In a meeting with top bureaucrats, including Chief Secretary Leela Mani Paudyal at the Good Governance Committee of Parliament on Friday, lawmakers asked them to keep the transactions transparent and maintain the quality of the projects.

Usually, the government has to call public tender notices with 35 days of submission deadline. In the case of Saarc projects, however, the Cabinet had approved the tenders within seven to 21 days, citing time constraints. In some cases, according to lawmakers, the government had awarded contract before releasing funds for the projects. Works related to infrastructure such as road, electricity, solar electrification, maintenance of City Hall and Gallery Hall inside Singha Durbar were approved bypassing the public procurement law.

Lawmakers questioned the government’s intent behind taking the fast-track approach despite knowing years ago about the Saarc Summit date.

“What is the reason behind waiting until the last moment and calling short-cut tenders when it was known eight months ago that the summit would take place in Kathmandu?” questioned lawmaker Janakraj Joshi.

He accused that nepotism and preferential treatment were largely practised while awarding the contracts. “I have been informed that the government increased the price of laying the carpet at the convention hall to Rs 500 per square foot when the market rate is Rs 350,” said Joshi.

Lawmakers are sceptical about the quality of the projects and if the money was well spent. In view of the upcoming regional conference of Saarc member nations, the government has commissioned various contractors to overlay (48 km) and repair (80 km) road in various parts of the Valley. Sixteen contractors were chosen for these tasks.

In addition, a large sum of money is being spent to purchase mobile phone frequency controller machines, popularly known as jammer, to ensure “fool-proof security” to the VVIPs.

A source said a Swiss-made jammer costs Rs 700 million while the one made in China costs Rs 1.5 million. The government has decided to purchase jammers from China in a short-cut bid.

Ram Sharan Pudasaini, joint-secretary at the Ministry of Finance, said the government has already released Rs 780 million for construction and repair works and another Rs 840 million is being disbursed shortly. Various ministries have sought Rs 350 million more.

Responding to lawmakers’ concerns, Chief Secretary Paudyal said the government would book those officials if they are found working with malafide intentions. “We are not in favour of interrogating officials right now, even if complaints are received. We don’t want to affect the preparations. But they won’t be let free when the convention is over,” said Poudel.

As for the fast-track tender process, he said it had to be adopted because of the delay in preparing the conference venue and the prime minister’s absence due to his ailment.

Published: 15-11-2014 09:07

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