EDITORIAL: Make firms liable

The govt should introduce tough laws that make the contractors accountable for any delay in completing the contracts they have won

The Public Procurement Monitoring Office (PPMO) under the Prime Minister’s Office on Friday decided to blacklist Pappu-Raman Construction Company and 330 other companies and suppliers for their failure to complete government contracts on time. The joint venture company, which has bagged many government contracts, especially bridges, was blacklisted as per the recommendation of the Postal Highway Directorate under the Department of Roads. The joint venture company was removed from the government’s list for one year beginning August, as per the PPMO guidelines. Earlier, the Postal Highway Directorate had made a recommendation to blacklist Pappu-Raman JV after it failed to complete the construction of Narayani Bridge within the set deadline in 2016. Interesting to note, however, is that Raman Construction has been awarded to build the Dharahara. Pappu Construction has won several government contracts, including bridges, across the country. But it has either delayed the construction works for years or whatever bridges it has built are substandard. One bridge at Teku over the Bishnumati River has been closed after it was found to be substandard and another contract awarded to it to build a bridge at Tinkune over the Bagmati River has been terminated due to its faulty design and the use of substandard materials.

The PPMO has said that companies and suppliers that have won contracts but failed to complete the works on time and whose works have been found substandard were being put under the scanner. Those companies and suppliers had won government contracts for over a decade. As per the Public Procurement Act, 2063 B.S., such companies and suppliers whose works are dismal can be blacklisted for one to three years from taking part in the bidding processes of government contracts. In its latest report, the CIAA has stated that as many as 848 government projects are in total mess even though various companies and suppliers have already received payment worth Rs 20 billion from the government coffers under the ‘mobilisation fund’, which they use for other purposes.

Taking this into account, Prime Minister KP Oli on November 25 instructed all the government agencies to remove those firms that had failed to complete the works on time from the contractors’ list. Around 50 companies and suppliers were blacklisted last year, while 22 other firms that flouted the contract rules have been blacklisted this fiscal, according to Rajesh Thapa, director at the PPMO. Although the legal action against the non-performing firms is highly welcome, the move is too late, too little, given the amount of time and money the government has lost over so many years. Delay in completing the works not only causes a huge loss to the state but also affects the public, who could have reaped benefits from them if completed on time. Such firms should be blacklisted not for one or two years but forever for dereliction of their duty. It is high time the government introduced a bill in Parliament allowing the government to cancel the licenses of those firms that deliberately fail to complete the works within the deadline.

Stay safe

As temperatures drop, both in the capital and elsewhere, people are turning to different ways to keep themselves warm or heat water to take a bath. While solar heaters are sprouting on rooftops everywhere, people, especially those living in rented homes, use a gas water geyser to heat water in the bathroom. While the gadget is safe, if precautionary measures are used, unfortunately, it has caused accidents, with a teenager living in a girl’s hostel in Kathmandu being the latest victim. Suffocation due to carbon monoxide poisoning while taking a bath has been blamed for her death, and even treatment at Patan Hospital could not revive her.

Modern gadgets apart, people also use traditional charcoal stoves to keep themselves warm in poorly ventilated rooms. As a result, quite a few accidents are reported year after year. While we cannot stop people from using modern gadgets and traditional appliances to keep themselves warm, what we can do is alert them about the pitfalls through the different media. Now that most people own a mobile phone in the country, social media could be very effective in informing them about the precautions to be taken while using gadgets.