National

Italian firm forwards demands for resuming Melamchi work

  • The implementing body told the Post it is unaware of the demands and has called on the line ministry for resolution
- CHANDAN KUMAR MANDAL, Kathmandu

Feb 22, 2019-

While the government appears to be leaving no stone unturned to bring back the Italian contractor of the Melamchi project, the Rome-based builder has forwarded a list of demands the government has to fulfil if it wants them to resume the work.

A senior government official told the Post that the contractor, Cooperativa Muratori e Cementisti di Ravenna (CMC), had sent a list of demands via the Nepali team that had gone to Singapore earlier this month to negotiate with the group’s officials.

“They have sent as many 26 bullet points as demands before returning to Nepal to complete the project,” said the official, who asked for anonymity because he was not allowed to speak with the media.

“These demands have come to us via unofficial channels,” the official continued. “However, these are the demands coming from the CMC for resuming their work.”

After a series of failed negotiations to bring the CMC back, the government had finally terminated the contract with the builder on February 7. Also, Water Supply Minister Bina Magar had dispatched a four-member team to discuss the possible resolutions regarding the stalemate.

A senior member of the CMC team in Rome, when reached by the Post via WhatsApp, admitted that they have forwarded demands—but they are not intended as 26 separate demands and only deals broadly with 10 different issues the company wants the Nepal government to address.

“Let’s say that in the document, there are 10 issues under discussion,” the Italian official told the Post.

Read: Staff of Melamchi Water Project's Italian builder trying to flee, say police

The CMC official said the demands include returning of bonds, release of payments as recommended by the Dispute Adjudication Board (DAB), ensuring security of CMC staffers, timely payment, variation resolutions, and other technical issues on the project that need resolving.

Minister Magar had transferred Secretary Gajendra Kumar Thakur, who had been accused of obstructing the ongoing negotiations with the CMC—a move that ministry insiders said would help bring the Italian group back and complete the project on time even if new contractors had to be brought on board.

The newly appointed secretary, Dipendra Nath Sharma, is yet to assume office while officials at the implementing body of the project, Melamchi Water Supply Development Board, say they are unaware of any demands from the Italian builder.

“We have not received any such demands officially. If those are the demands, then we cannot fulfill them. These are beyond our authority,” said Surya Raj Kadel, executive director with the board.

Kadel also told the Post that these demands were endorsed by an unofficial team which had no right to discuss any matters tied to the project.

“The demands are not addressed to us—the main body—so neither us nor the donors have to agree to their demands,” said Kadel.

The ministry, which has appeared desperate to bring back the CMC, also lacks the plan on how it would do so. It had transferred the erstwhile secretary but has not spelled out whether it would agree to their demands.

More: Officials and Italian contractor have differing stories on Melamchi dispute and travel ban

Kadel further said that there was still no clarity on whether the CMC can be allowed to re-enter the project after they had first quit the project and then the government terminated the contract. CMC officials insist that they never quit the project—they simply terminated the contract after the government failed to meet the terms of the agreement.

“The question is how long we can wait for the CMC. If the ministry wants to bring them back, it should do that immediately. We cannot wait them forever,” Kadel said.

It has been two months since the CMC left the project and if the ministry intends to bring the group back, it still has to receive approval from a Cabinet decision.

The project, which was close to completion, has seen no progress on the ground since the work was stopped in mid-December.

“If we do not reach to any conclusion in the next couple of weeks,” Kadel said, “neither the CMC nor any new local contractors can help complete the project before the monsoon approaches.”

Published: 22-02-2019 07:29

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