Water Supply Ministry transfers Secretary Gajendra Kumar ThakurThe Melamchi project has slipped into yet another controversy after the government transferred the secretary at the Ministry of Water Supply.
Chandan Kumar Mandal
The Melamchi project has slipped into yet another controversy after the government transferred the secretary at the Ministry of Water Supply.
A Cabinet meeting on Sunday kept Secretary Gajendra Kumar Thakur in the “reserve pool”—a government terminology used for officials who are not given any duties to perform—for his involvement in pushing the national pride project into uncertainty and disrupting the government’s attempt to bring back the Italian contractor.
A source close to Minister for Water Supply Bina Magar told the Post that Thakur had been transferred for his continuous and strong objection to bringing back project’s contractor Cooperativa Muratori e Cementisti di Ravenna (CMC).
“The minister wants to bring back the CMC for completing the project at the earliest. However, the secretary has been against this. The ministry couldn’t keep him there any longer at the cost of pushing the project,” said the source, requesting anonymity.
The minister wanted Thakur to lead the high-level team that went to Singapore for talks with the CMC officials, according to the source. “However, Thakur refused to lead the team.”
The CMC had put forth some pre-conditions before returning to Nepal and resume work. It is learnt that CMC officials had also expressed their dissatisfaction over working with Thakur.
Since then the secretary had been strongly opposing the proposal of allowing the CMC to resume the project work.
“The secretary had also put pressure on Minister Magar who, on the other hand, has seen bringing back the CMC as the ultimate solution to end the ongoing crisis,” the source told the Post. “Thakur also lobbied against the minister. Following the obstacles, Magar approached Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and complained about Thakur’s activities.”
Thakur had accompanied a team of security forces to apprehend CMC officials who were accused of fleeing the country after abandoning the project uncompleted. He had been also blamed for failing to deal with the CMC affairs before it escalated to the situation when CMC officials resorted to terminating the project as they were denied payment for their work.
The ministry source also told the Post that Thakur was lobbying for retruiting new local contractors. “We cannot say what exactly his intent was. But he was not in favour of completing the project at the earliest and allowing the CMC to resume work,” the source claimed.
Thakur, however, told the Post that he was subjected to the action for his stand on easing unneccesary financial burden on the country for getting back the CMC, which has demanded additional money.
“Transfer is a regular process, but I was transferred because I objected minister’s decision of allowing the CMC to complete the work. This is against the law as the contractor had abandoned the project,” Thakur said.
According to him, the decision to resume work with the CMC would mean Rs7 billion in additional costs to the country. “I was under pressure to agree with minister’s decision. When I demanded that she give me her decision in writing, she declined. Then I urged her to issue a transfer order rather than forcing me to work under pressure and going against the law and country,” Thakur claimed.