Contractors’ election leaves projects in limbo

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Contractors elected mayors and rural municipality chiefs in Province 7 have drawn flak for not completing projects on time

-Nimendra Shahi, Bajura: Centre for Investigative Journalism-Nepal

The Kanda health post building under construction in ward 1 of Chhededaha Rural Municipality, Khaptad, Bajura.

Rajendra Construction Services Pvt Ltd owner Bhim Bahadur Saud has been elected mayor of Parshuram Municipality in Dedeldhura. He had been a contractor for years before being elected a people’s representative after the local level elections. Saud’s firm hardly misses any development projects in the far-western region but none of its projects are completed on time.

The project to construct the Kanda Health Post building in Chhededaha Rural Municipality contracted by Saud’s company remains incomplete in six years. The Rajendra Construction Services signed an agreement with the Doti Division Office of the Department of Urban Development and Construction on September 14, 2011 with the 15-month building deadline ending on December 15, 2012. The building remains incomplete even after four deadline extensions.

The division office extended the construction deadline for the fourth time on May 12, 2016. When the deadline was missed, the Doti Division Office of the Department of Urban Development and Construction has issued verbal and written instructions to the company to complete the task as soon as possible but the builder has not heeded the calls. Divisional Office chief Jhappar Singh Bishwakarma wrote a letter to the company on August 18, 2017 warning of initiating the process to blacklist it.

The delay has affected healthcare services for the poor. Ram Chandra Yadav, in charge of the Kanda Health Post, said he had not seen the contractor after he bagged the contract. Yadav said treating people had been difficult due to the delay in building construction. “Women are facing trouble. In particular, women visiting the health post for regular pregnancy check-ups and family planning have been affected. Postpartum women are being treated out in the open,” said ANM Mandevi Budha.

Chhededaha Ward No 1 Chairman Bir Bahadur Rawal vented his ire at the election of the contractor who failed to construct the health post building as the mayor. “The contractor has become mayor but we have no hope he will build the health post in our ward,” said Rawal. The project funded by the Building and Cooperative Divisional Office Dipayal costs nearly Rs 16.5 million. During a public hearing conducted on December 8, 2017, local residents had pressed the ward office to explain the reasons behind the delay in building construction.

Six years for building 60 metre bridge!

A bridge over the Guigad stream under Sanphe-Martadi road division.

Another development project contracted by Bhim Bahadur Saud’s company in Achham district remains incomplete. Construction of a bridge over the Guigad stream on the road linking Sanphebagar of Achham with Martadi of Bajura began six years ago. The deal was to construct the bridge within two years of signing the contract by the July 15, 2013 deadline. The deadline to build the 60 metre bridge has been extended five times.

The first one-year construction deadline extension was until July 16, 2014. The second extension was for seven months until February 12, 2015. The third time, the construction deadline was pushed till April 12, 2016. The fourth six-month extension took the deadline to November 15, 2016. The fifth time, the company was given three months to complete the works. “The work has not been over despite this,” says Account Officer Yubaraj Poudel of the Sanphe-Martadi road division office.

Bajura In-charge of Rajendra Construction Services Narendra Oli said the earthquakes during the construction had sent workers home for long. Oli blamed supply disruption due to the disaster for the delay, promising to complete the construction by mid-March 2018.

The total construction budget as per the agreement is Rs 52,754,000, Account Officer Poudel said.

The contractor-mayor

Mayor of Budhinanda Municipality in Bajura Padam Kumar Giri oversees the Ashish Construction Services Pvt Ltd. He has not given up his business even after being elected the mayor. Mayor Giri’s firm is currently involved in eight projects in Bajura alone.

People’s representatives and their construction companies

After being elected, Giri carries out his construction business in the name of other contractors. Equipment owned by Giri’s company are being used to construct the District Police Office Bajura building while the works have been contracted by the Jalapa Construction Services. The Jalapa company has contracted works also at the India-funded building construction at the Janaprakash Higher Secondary Kolti, Jadanga, Brahmatola, Atichaur and Jagannath Health Post while the equipment and workers have been supplied by Mayor Giri’s company.

Giri admitted that his equipment and human resource were being used in the construction works going on in the district. “But the project contracts have not been signed by my firm,” said the mayor.

Irrigation project in limbo

Gairagaun Purbichauki Rural Municipality Ward No 3 Chairman Amar Bahadur Cheyada in Doti is the proprietor of Chandralaxmi Construction Services Pvt Ltd. The Chindigad Irrigation Project agreed to be constructed by his firm has been stalled. The Irrigation Division Office Doti had contracted the project to Cheyada’s company to be constructed within a year by mid-July 2017. Division Office Engineer Lalit Mali said seven more months were given to the contractor as the work was not over within the given timeframe. “Contractors seek deadline extensions on various pretexts,” he said.

The fresh project deadline ended on January 14. Contractor Cheyada said the works were delayed due to the dearth of workers in the village. “The process has lingered since transparency has to be maintained by sharing all details with the locals,” he said.

30 contractors elected

In the nine districts of Province 7, 30 contractors have been elected to the local level. According to data from the Dhangadi regional office of Construction Entrepreneurs’ Association, contractors have been elected to one or more local federal units in all the districts of the province.

In Kailali, a contractor has been elected as the ward chairman while two others are ward members. In Kanchanpur, three contractors have won ward char seats while one has been elected as a ward member. In Bajhang, a contractor has been voted to the helm of a rural municipality, five have become ward chairmen and one won the ward member’s position. Six contractors are the people’s representatives in Doti–one rural municipality chair, four ward members and one ward member.

Among the five contractors in Bajura, three are rural municipality chiefs and two ward chairpersons. A ward chairman is a contractor in Baitadi. One mayor and two ward chairpersons are contractors in Darchula. Among the seven contractor firm operators who won the local elections in Dadeldhura, two are village chiefs, two ward chairmen and three members. In Achham, one contactor won the District Coordination Committee chair while another has been elected ward member.

Source: Regional Construction Entrepreneurs’ Association, Dhangadhi

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