All is not well

Jun 19, 2018-

Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Raghubir Mahaseth has assured construction project contractors that the government will no longer arrest them for non-performance or under-performance. Mahaseth’s assurance comes at a time when Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa has been taking action against public works contractors who have been sitting on projects for long, either not starting at all or lagging far behind the schedule agreed to in the contracts. Two contradictory statements coming from the ministers of the same government indicates that all is not well within the cabinet.

Last week authorities arrested two contractors in Sindhupalchok and Mugu districts as part of the Home Ministry’s crackdown against non-performing and under-performing contractors.

Following the arrests, a meeting convened on Friday at the request of the contractors who complained about “arbitrary” arrests. At the meeting, Mahaseth was quoted as saying “Contractors are not only to blame for the delays because preparatory tasks like clearing trees along the right of way, shifting the electricity poles and others works have not been done”. Mahaseth’s statement comes after a month-long silence on this issue and his remarks run parallel to the demand of contractors. The contractors want action against the firms in line with the contract agreement and the Public Procurement Act. The measures include fining, confiscating security deposit, terminating contract and blacklisting. The Home Ministry maintains that its actions are specified in the Local Administration Act.

It is important to note that Mahaseth’s actions when it comes to the BP Highway, syndicate and now contractors have all been contradicting government’s policies and that of the Home Ministry’s as well. These are not good signs. The government should take cognizance of this and make sure there is proper co-ordination and communication within ministries and among different government agencies. Should there be any differences—either within the ministry or among the ministers, it should be solved within the cabinet, not in the public realm.

People have huge expectation from the current government. At a time when the government is harping on the prosperity and development narrative, its cabinet members should be working in tandem with each other and not in competition.  Disagreements and differences in opinion among various ministries are not new but the onus lies on the Prime Minister to solve these issues. This particular case could be the first of its kind for the Oli government, but if the PM, as the head of the executive branch of the government does not intervene early, then perhaps such instances might occur again. The public have long waited to see substantial improvement in the areas of infrastructure and public transport, let infighting not jeopardise that.

Published: 19-06-2018 07:52

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