Prime minister-led panel to handle mega projects

Kathmandu, March 12

The government has registered a bill in the Parliament proposing a powerful mechanism under the Office of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers to handle mega infrastructure projects.

Consolidating PMO’s power, the bill on fast-track construction and development of national priority projects, which has been registered at the Parliament Secretariat, states that large national priority projects ranging from hydropower development to the construction of international airports shall come under the jurisdiction of the PM-led project steering committee.

“The big-ticket projects worth over Rs 25 billion shall be directly handled by the PM-led steering committee,” states the bill. The committee shall award such development projects to any builder through direct negotiation without inviting competitive bidding.

Earlier, the government had planned a bill allowing the PM-led six-member committee to run projects worth more than Rs 50 billion. Later, the amount was reduced by half to bring more projects under the PMO.

Though the government claimed that it registered the bill to expedite construction of mega projects by establishing a strong mechanism under the PM’s office, opposition lawmakers strongly criticised the government move terming it a ploy to make other ministries and government institutions non-functional. “Through this bill, the PM wants to centralise power in himself rather than making other institutions, as well as other ministries, accountable and functional,” NC lawmaker Dilendra Badu said.

According to the bill, the committee has the authority to select projects, help construct projects, provide policy-level direction and monitor projects regularly. The PM-led panel has finance minister, minister of the project’s line ministry, vice-chair of the National Planning Commission and chief secretary as its members, while secretary at the PMO is member secretary of the committee.