Fate of 600 road projects hangs in balance as provinces are reluctant to own themHanding over of these projects, previously under the federal government, has stalled for more than a year.
More than a year since the federal government started handing over smaller road projects to the provinces, half of the planned roads have yet to come under provincial governments, as they are reluctant to own them.
Officials at both federal and provincial governments said the provinces are not keen on accepting those projects whose deadline has already expired. Additionally, there is not enough budget allocated by the federal government to complete them at the earliest.
As many as 1,100 road projects were supposed to be handed over to the provinces, whose combined contract amount stands to the tune of Rs26 billion.
The federal government has already handed over around a half of the projects to the provinces.
“We have failed to hand over around 600 road projects to the provinces,” said Shivahari Sapkota, spokesperson for the Department of Roads. “Provinces are not taking over the projects whose contract expired before mid-July 2018.”
According to him, the deadline for most of the 600 road projects has already expired.
Due to the delay in handing over the projects, construction work in most of these roads has stalled.
After the federal government failed to allocate budget for the Department of Roads to implement these projects, it has not worked on these projects since last fiscal year.
The budget for these projects was released to the provincial governments under conditional grants. But due to the delay in handover, provinces have also not been able to continue work on these projects.
Om Prakash Sah, information officer at the Physical Infrastructure Development Ministry of Province 1, admitted that the provincial government wanted to be clear on the budget. Clarity is also needed on who would extend the deadline of contracts before taking over a number of road projects, according to him.
“We have returned some projects that we had taken over from the Road Department as there was no clarity on the deadline extension, as the deadline for those projects had expired three or four years ago,” said Sah.
The Province 1 government said it also wants to be clear on budget allocation after the federal government didn’t provide additional funds last fiscal year, as promised for the projects that were handed over to it.
“The provincial government had not allocated any budget for the road projects that were handed over to us. We had asked the contractors to work more with the hope that the federal government would allocate additional budget. As the federal government didn’t provide extra budget, we could not pay the contractors for additional work,” said Sah.
With the federal and provincial governments failing to reach a conclusion on handover, the fate of around 600 projects now hangs in the balance.
This could also result in non-utilisation of the allocated budget.
Jitendra Sonal, Province 2 minister for physical infrastructure development, told the Post that the federal government didn’t make efforts to hand over the project at higher policy-making levels, which caused the delay.
“Project handover would be easier if it were done at least at the ministry level between the federal and provincial governments, instead of doing it at the division road office,” said Sonal.
Provincial governments had long been demanding that the federal government come up with a complete package regarding the project handover, with clarity on liability and completion deadline.
Provincial governments say they are facing difficulties in extending the deadline of projects that remain incomplete.
“We are in discussion with the Road Department about how to address the contract extension issue as there have been some technical difficulties,” said Pathan Singh Bohora, the minister for physical infrastructure development in Sudoorpaschim Province.