Budget duplication and irregularities in road construction and upgradation uncheckedLocals raise questions about the poor monitoring and evaluation of the development work by the local authorities.
Budget duplication and irregularities while constructing and upgrading roads are going unchecked in several development projects in Dailekh district.
Thatikadh Rural Municipality had allocated Rs 7.9 million budget in the last fiscal year to upgrade a 1.5 km-long road section connecting the local unit with the Karnali Highway. The road is in a dilapidated state, as the construction work, the locals claimed, was carried out using substandard materials. The Infrastructure Development Office has issued Rs 40 million for the upgradation of the same road section this year.
“There is budget duplication along the Chine-Thatikadh-Bijare road every year. The contractors do not work properly and the authorities never take action against them,” said Tapendra Singh, a local. He claims that the local government and other concerned authorities work in collusion with the contractors so that the road remains in a poor condition year after year.
The local unit had initially allocated Rs 5 million budget last year to upgrade the road through a consumers’ committee. But the contract was later handed over to Bijaya Construction Company by providing an additional Rs 2.4 million amount. The rural municipality had provided an additional Rs 500,000 at the eleventh hour of the last fiscal year.
However, despite the upgrade last year, the road section is still in a dilapidated condition, says Rabindra Shahi, another local.
“Although the local unit had allocated Rs 7.9 million for the road upgradation, only Rs 1 million was spent. The contractor did not carry out the work properly. They misused the budget in the name of gravelling the road,” Shahi said.
The provincial office of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority has expressed its concern about the road upgradation work after media reports published two weeks ago highlighted the irregularities in road upgradation projects.
According to locals, the contractor company has now added gravel on the road section to avoid legal action. Jagat Thapa, the chairman of the consumers’ committee formed to upgrade the road, said the road is muddy, as the contractor did not gravel the road properly.
However, Laba Bahadur Sijapati, sub-engineer at the local unit, claimed that the upgradation work was carried out as per the work estimate approved by the rural municipality.
The upgradation work—including levelling, gravelling, widening, and building of retaining walls—along the road section is underway in the current fiscal year with the budget allocated by the Infrastructure Development Office.
The situation of other roads in the district is also the same. The road connecting Ganesh Chowk and Kandachaur in Narayan Municipality is in a poor state. A total of Rs 33.6 million was spent to upgrade the 2-km-long road stretch in the past three years.
“Though the municipality had allocated a good amount of money to upgrade the road, the budget has not been properly utilised. The road is full of potholes. This is the situation of the road in the district headquarters. One can easily imagine the road condition in other parts of the district,” said Kamal KC of Narayan Municipality.
The municipality allocates a budget to the road section every year under different headlines, KC added.
“The road is blacktopped in the rainy season just to avert budget from freezing. But the blacktop comes off after just one or two months,” said Mina Bogati, a local. She raised questions about the poor monitoring and evaluation of the development works by the municipality.
The locals claimed that the road upgradation work was not done properly, as the political leaders handed over the construction work to their party activists.
“A consumers’ committee is formed to carry out the project. But the work is handed over to the contractor later. Party supporters get the budget in the name of development works,” said Prakash KC, a local.
The municipality officials, however, denied any irregularities in road upgradation projects. Hikmat Rokaya, an engineer at the municipality, claimed that the road developed potholes due to a lack of proper drainage system.
“The construction of roadside drainage is problematic since the roads in the district headquarters are narrow. The roads are inundated in the rainy season and get damaged each year,” he claimed.