Local contractors demand payments, blame government for Melamchi mess

  • The Italian builder owes nearly Rs1.5 billion, about 800 workers stranded, sub-contractors say
- CHANDAN KUMAR MANDAL, Kathmandu

Feb 11, 2019-

Local contractors associated with the Melamchi drinking water project have blamed the government for the national pride project debacle.

A group of sub-contractors associated with the main contractor of the project—Cooperativa Muratori e Cementisti di Ravenna—said on Sunday that government’s failure to abide by the terms of the contract led to abandoning of the project by the Italian builder and ultimately termination of the contract.

The local contractors have said the ongoing fiasco surrounding the project, which was near compulsion, could have been averted had the government and its officials acted as per the contract and paid the amount to the CMC as decided by the Dispute Adjudication Board (DAB).

“They had abandoned the project only because the government didn’t pay the contractor the amount which they well deserved,” said Shree Ram Neupane, coordinator of the Melamchi Water Supply Project Victim Struggling Committee, a loose coalition of sub-contractors, demanding clearance of their dues.

The Board had decided that the government should pay the CMC Rs360 million in variable costs for the additional work the builder had to do after the 2015 earthquake. After the government had received the notice, it had to clear the amount within 21 days that was set for October 26 last year. When the CMC did not get the amount within the deadline, they had sent a notice of project termination to the government which was not accepted by the government officials.  

“Even after being notified of the project termination, rather than paying their amount as per the contract the government officials resorted to arresting them, seizing their passports and barring their exit from country,” Neupane told a press conference organised in Kathmandu on Sunday.

According to him, such action will give the Italian firm the upper hand if it moves the International Arbitration Court in Singapore.

The local contractors have also demanded that their dues totalling nearly Rs1.5 billion owed by the CMC should be cleared as soon as possible.

“We have no idea how the government does that but the local contractors need to be paid their dues. If they fail to bring back the CMC, which had abandoned the project because of government actions, then the government should pay our amount,” Neupane said, adding the CMC owed his company Rs15 million.

Nearly 800 workers have not been paid their salaries for over two months, according to Devi Raman Adhikari, Human Resources Manager with the CMC, .

“Workers were working on the construction site when the debate was raging in Kathmandu and the contractor left the site. Since then workers are left stranded with no salaries. Some of them have returned home empty handed,” said Adhikari, adding that salaries worth Rs87.4 million are pending.

The contractors also questioned government’s intention of terminating the contract first and holding talks with the CMC officials in Singapore—the move which exposed government’s double standards and showed Nepal as unsafe for talk.

They, however, urged the government to try their best to bring back the CMC to resume the project work in order to save time and additional expenses of hiring a new contractor.

Dinesh Shrestha, a member of the team dispatched by Water Supply Minister Bina Magar to hold talks with the Italians in Singapore, said the CMC was still positive of resuming the work provided their conditions are met.

“Besides additional flow of cash from the government to pay the local contractors, they also want more time to finish the project,” said Shrestha, whose company has to collect nearly Rs700 million from the CMC. “Now, it’s up to the government how and when they respond. They wanted an immediate response.”

Published: 11-02-2019 11:37

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