CIAA charges lawmaker Rauniyar and his son for poor bridge works

- PRITHVI MAN SHRESTHA, Kathmandu

Oct 6, 2018-

The Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) on Friday filed a corruption case at the Special Court against Pappu Construction owner and lawmaker Hari Narayan Rauniyar and his son Sumit Rauniyar for building a substandard bridge over the Babai river in Jabbighat, Bardiya.

Along with the father-son duo, 10 others including government officials and consultants involved in the bridge project have been charged with corruption. The bridge built by the Pappu collapsed last year before it was formally handed over to the Department of Roads. The CIAA has sought to recover Rs193.22 million of the embezzled amount each from the lawmaker and his son while the total amount misappropriated by the remaining others is Rs707million.

This is the first time a serious charge has been filed against the construction company which has avoided government action so far. Rauniyar and his company were immune to action despite a poor track record in a number of development projects. Even as a majority of projects are running behind schedule, the company has avoided accountability for its negligence and evaded inquiries and penalties for incomplete and delayed projects. A Post investigation showed the construction company currently has public contracts worth around Rs15 billion in its portfolio but a majority of them have missed the completion deadline.

The CIAA action against the Pappu firm comes two days after the anti-graft body said it had sought details from the ministries of delayed development projects. In its charge sheet, the CIAA said a case was filed against the contractor because Pappu Construction didn’t build the bridge according to the set design and specifications and failed to maintain the quality while technical staff “colluded” with the contractor to approve its works despite the quality being questionable.

Following the registration of a corruption case in court, Rauniyar faces suspension as a lawmaker. According to Clause 33 of the Corruption Prevention Act-2002, a public position holder is suspended the moment a corruption case is filed against him/her in a court of law.

According to Special Court Spokesperson Nagendra Keshari Pokharel, the court will now issue summons in the name of the defendants as the CIAA didn’t produce any of them while filing the case.The corruption watchdog had initiated a probe into the bridge after a complaint was registered claiming that the bridge connecting Gulariya, the district headquarters of Bardiya, with Barbardiya Municipality collapsed due to the use of substandard materials.“All the technical staff of the government accepted faulty works of the contractors despite serious problems in ‘line level and pier height’,” the constitutional commission said in a statement.

“They didn’t seek quality assurance plan from the contractor and recommended payment without getting the certificate of quality.”The CIAA move comes as a relief for Road Department officials. Since their effort to discipline the Pappu had gone in vain, they hailed the case as an important step which would send a strong message to other contractors.

“The CIAA seems to have taken note of the technical test that the Institute of Engineering Consultancy Service conducted while deciding to file the case at the special court,” said Arjun Jung Thapa, chief of the bridge division at the department. IoE had been hired for the purpose.After the bridge collapsed, the Road Department initiated the process of blacklisting the Pappu. But it failed to take action after the Supreme Court ordered not to blacklist it, upholding the company’s plea.

The department had assigned the IoE Consultancy Service to conduct a technical study to find the cause of collapse at the presence of CIAA officials. In its final report submitted to the department recently, the consultancy stated that the depth of the constructed piles, which also had cavities, was only 5.5 metres against the designed 15 metres. Pappu Construction, however, claimed their height to be 15 metres and argued that the bridge collapsed due to its faulty design.

The builder disagrees with the IoE report reasoning that it did not come from an independent body. It also refused to rebuild the bridge.On other occasions in the past too, the Pappu was spared action even as many development projects it handled failed to make the agreed progress. Officials say the construction company enjoyed impunity due to Rauniyar’s political links.He was once blacklisted 13 years ago for producing fake documents to bag a contract. Even then, he was able to delay the process by a year.

While the firm is a front-runner to get the contract of building a Nepal Rastra Bank facility at Baluwatar in Kathmandu, authorities have not invited it following the series of controversies. Among the 12 bidders, the SRBC Pappu JV has quoted the lowest amount of Rs2.06 billion to reconstruct the earthquake-damaged building.

Rautahat District Police Office has issued an arrest warrant against Sumit, the Pappu chairman, holding the company responsible for a boat tragedy last month in which five people were killed in Rautahat’s Tikuliyaghat village when a boat carrying 29 people across the river capsized after hitting the pillar of the bridge under construction. It was found later that lawmaker Rauniyar had signed the bridge contract.

Published: 06-10-2018 07:05

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