Handover delay in peak season stalls more than 1,000 road projects

- PRITHVI MAN SHRESTHA, Kathmandu

Feb 4, 2019-

As development works usually pick up in the second half of the fiscal year, there is no sign that stalled construction on over 1,000 road projects will resume any time soon due to the delay in handing over the projects to the provinces.

Seven months since the fiscal year began, only a handful of the 1,100 projects supposed to be handed over to the provinces have come under the authority of provincial governments so far.

According to the Road Department, just over 45 road projects have been handed over to the Province 3 government so far while the progress in assigning the projects to other provinces has been negligible largely. The combined contract amount of the 1,100 road segments is around Rs26 billion, according to the department.

After the federal government allocated around Rs7 billion in the name of provincial governments for these projects in the current fiscal year, the Road Department has discontinued works in these projects.

As early as September last year, the department had asked the Divisional Road Offices under it to stop working on these projects. This resulted in a halt to works in these projects which are in different stages of implementation.

Due to the handover delays, the provincial governments have not been able to spend the allocated amount. “The current scenario is that these projects will neither be implemented by the provincial governments in the current fiscal year nor will the Centre do so,” said Rabindra Nath Shrestha, director general of the Road Department.

The department and the seven provincial governments trade blame over the delays. While the department says that provincial governments have been reluctant to take over the projects citing the lack of enough funds and questioning the quality of works so far in those projects, the provinces blame the centre for the delays.

According to department officials, the provincial governments have shown concerns such as whether they would be able to get additional budget from the centre to complete the projects. Only around a quarter of the budget required to complete them has been allocated in the current fiscal year. The provinces are also concerned whether they would have to take the blame for wrongdoing in a number of projects that are in a troubled state.

“They are concerned if they might have to bear the responsibility for poor road project implementation after the handover,” said Shrestha. “We are telling them that the provinces can first take over the well-performing projects and we will hand over the problematic ones after addressing those problems.” But, the provincial officials have dismissed the claims of the Road Department.

Province 2 Minister for Physical Infrastructure Development Jitendra Sonal told the Post that the federal government only talks about releasing the projects but has not delivered on it.

“My ministry has not got a single letter from the Physical Infrastructure Ministry under the federal government regarding the handover of the road projects,” he said.

He also insisted that Kathmandu should also provide the provinces with all the project documents. Province 2 has not taken over any of the road projects so far.

When it comes to Sudurpaschim, the Road Department said it has handed over Seti Highway to the province so far.

Pathan Singh Bohora, minister of Physical Infrastructure Development in Sudurpaschim Province, told the Post that the Divisional Road Offices under the department were not handing over the projects even though they were ready for it.

“As early as December last year, I had organised a meeting between the chiefs of Divisional Road Offices and senior staff at the infrastructure division of our ministry to facilitate early handover of the projects. But they are delaying the handover,” he said.

Both the ministers however made it clear that the Road Department must come up with a complete package regarding the handover with clarity on liability and the completion deadline.

Although there has been a delay in handing over the projects, the department aims to complete the process by mid-March, according to Shrestha.

Published: 04-02-2019 10:32

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