Monitoring bodies turning blind eye to contractors’ negligence

Kathmandu, June 6

There are at least a dozen oversight mechanisms to monitor infrastructure projects in the country, but they are not doing their jobs properly. This is one reason why contractors do not complete projects on time.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has launched an aggressive campaign against contractors found violating the terms and conditions of their assignments. While Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa has launched a drive to punish erring contractors, Minister of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Raghubir Mahaseth has also started collecting details of projects that have not been completed on time.

There are almost a dozen oversight mechanisms to monitor roads and bridges constructed by the Department of Roads. The MPIT’s monitoring division can also monitor such projects. Apart from these bodies, there are monitoring divisions at the National Planning Commission and Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers. The OPMCM has been monitoring mega projects.

There is also National Development Problem Solving Committee headed by the prime minister for monitoring and evaluation of projects. The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority and National Vigilance Centre can also monitor projects if they suspect irregularities.

“There has been no monitoring by the oversight agencies in our country,” said Tulasi Prasad Sitaula, former secretary at the MPIT. “This is one reason why contractors often delay projects. It is because of the collusion among the contractors, bureaucrats and politicians that the agencies responsible for monitoring the projects do not do their jobs.”

He said the home minister was trying to punish erring contractors. “There are around 12,000 contractors, but the pity is that in my 30-year career I felicitated only two contractors for their good work. This shows the quality of work done by contractors in our country,” he added.

Sitaula said he had tried to punish erring contractors but they always escaped unpunished due to their nexus with politicians.

Surya Raj Acharya, a development expert, said there was no quick fix to this problem. He said monitoring agencies should not only just visit the project sites but also identify difficulties and approaches to solve them.

Former vice-chair of NPC Jagdish Chandra Pokharel said there were legal difficulties in punishing erring contractors. “We have to change our monitoring system,” he said and added that government monitoring agencies were not working effectively.

“Without the proper guidelines, we can’t solve this problem. Punishing a few contractors won’t solve the problem either,” he said.

Director General of the DoR Rabindra Nath Shrestha said his department and the line ministry led by Minster Mahaseth were monitoring contractors’ work throughout the country. “If we find evidence of fraud, we will terminate their contracts immediately,” Shrestha said.