Sajha e-bus procurement process put on hold over slow progressThe cooperative transport company, however, says it took time to set up a multi-stakeholder committee and prepare bidding documents.
An ambitious plan of rolling out a fleet of electric buses for public transportation in the country has hit a roadblock with the government asking Sajha Yatayat to hold the procurement process.
The Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport has asked Sajha Yatayat, which was given the responsibility to buy electric buses, to keep the overall process on hold “for the time”, citing sluggish progress.
The government had decided to allocate Rs3 billion to Sajha Yatayat just days before the end of the last fiscal year. The money was transferred to the co-operative public transport company on July 18—two days into the new fiscal year.
The sudden decision to halt the process has left Sajha Yatayat authority surprised, according to its Chief Executive Officer Bhushan Tuladhar.
“We received the letter nearly a month ago on September 18, which asked us to hold the process for now,” Tuladhar told the Post. “Whatever dissatisfaction the ministry had with Sajha over the progress can be discussed and addressed. However, we have been asked to keep the process on hold. If the process is slow then they should have asked us to speed up the process or sought an explanation instead of putting the process on hold.”
Rajeshwor Gyawali, spokesperson for the transport ministry, said he was unaware of any letter sent to Sajha asking it to stop the e-bus procurement process. However, he admitted that the progress so far has been dismal.
“Sajha Yatayat Cooperative has been given the responsibility of everything regarding bringing the bus,” said Gyawali. “But the progress was slow. The ministry had enquired about the progress status. We want the buses to arrive as early as possible.”
Sajha Yatayat has a total of 71 diesel buses on its fleet. The cooperative has been already operating 51 buses on 10 different routes in the Kathmandu Valley, with two routes in and out of the Valley: the Kathmandu-Waling and Kathmandu-Butwal-Bhairahawa.
Since receiving the letter, Sajha has responded to the ministry through two separate letters, according to Tuladhar. “The first one was about the status update and the second one said Sajha was waiting for a response,” said Tuladhar.
Tuladhar, however, rejected that there was any delay in the overall process.
According to Tuladhar, the first month was lost in forming a multi-stakeholder committee and preparation of the bidding document thereafter.
“It took us a while to get everything together. Then preparing the bidding document, which is a detailed document, also took us time,” said Tuladhar. “Just as we were ready for our board meeting to discuss the bid document, we received the letter, just a day before the meeting. Everything has been on hold since.”
In the first phase, Sajha Yatayat was planning to bring and operate nearly 50 electric buses by the Nepali New Year, mid-April next year, with the financial support from the government.
The halt has affected the whole process, according to Tuladhar.
“We could have published a tender notice last month. The decision to put everything on hold has broken the momentum,” said Tuladhar. “We are in a wait-and-watch mode for a month now.”
Gyawali, the ministry spokesperson, however, said concerns were raised over the sluggish progress since the budget was allocated.
“The public money should be utilised properly. The overall progress should speed up. The minister wishes vehicles should arrive early and provide services to the public,” said Gyawali.
Initially, the ministry had said that e-buses should start operation by the Dashain festival. But Tuladhar said it was not possible, as it would take around seven-eight months to complete the procurement process unless the entire procurement process is carried out on a government-to-government modality.
“This is not a crisis as such yet. We can still announce the bidding notice within a month and resume the process,” said Tuladhar. “If the ministry wants to discuss anything, we are open to it. We feel confident that we have done the right work and are right on track.”