After public shaming, road authority warns contractors to rush remaining workOf the 17 road contracts awarded under the second phase of line of credit, work has only been completed on five projects, according to officials.
Prithvi Man Shrestha
When the people of Dolakha protested against the prolonged delay in blacktopping the Mudhe-Charikot section of the road by plastering the images of the contractor on public vehicles, trees and electricity poles, it finally drew the attention of the government agency responsible for the implementation of the project.
Earlier this week, the Department of Roads issued a notice to the contractor—Shakeel Haider-Shankarmali-Sunaula Khimti JV—asking it to resume construction work immediately and submit resource mobilisation and work completion plans within seven days or face termination of the contract.
According to the project office, the contractor—Deepak Sapkota, who owns Shankarmali Mali Nirman Sewa—has stopped working on the project since April. The project is one of the four contracts among the dozen road contracts currently under construction or upgradation with the funding provided by India’s Exim Bank.
“Despite repeated requests from the office to resume work, the contractor had neither responded nor showed any intentions to resume the work,” said Sushil Dhakal, a Road Department official overseeing a series of projects funded by Exim Bank.
Of the 17 contracts awarded for road projects under the second phase of the bank’s Line of Credit, work has only been completed on five contracts, according to the Department of Road. Deadline for all the remaining 12 contracts has been extended or is in the process of extension.
But officials said some of them are in a very poor state and it will be difficult to complete them within the extended deadline. As per the latest amendment to Public Procurement Regulations, the contract can only be extended until June 4 next year last time.
In an interview with the Post, Sapkota said he could not continue work because the government delayed payment of around Rs75 million for several months. According to him, his firm was only paid around Rs45 million.
But Dhakal, the Road Department official, said the contractor had no right to complain about payments from the government.
“As per the contract, he has the option to claim compensation for delayed payment but it cannot stop work,” he said.
Dhakal further said that even after the money was released, Sapkota’s firm didn’t resume work on the project, forcing it to issue a warning. The Shakeel Haider-Shankarmali-Sunaula Khimti JV had won the contract for the 30km road in August 2015, with a completion deadline of two years.
Another contractor whose photographs were plastered on public vehicles is Sharda Prasad Adhikari, owner of Shailung Construction, whose firm was awarded two contracts for the roads under the Road Improvement and Development Project, in a joint venture with AIPL Construction (India).
However, both of the projects have not been completed by the deadline.
According to the project office, only 75 percent of work has been completed on Bhaktapur-Nagarkot-Sipaghat Road, and the contract deadline was recently extended until April next year.
“The contractor has expedited the work in this project after the contractor’s images were displayed in public places for not working timely,” said Dhakal. “As the contractor has committed to completing this project by April, we have not categorised it as a chronic contract.”
Another project handed to Shailung is Balaju-Ranipauwa section of Balaju-Trishuli Road. Physical progress of this road project is just 47 percent as the extended deadline of this contract already expired in May this year. The project office has categorised it as chronic contract and has also fined the contractor for delayed works.
Experts say that due to political connections, contractors often avoid termination of contracts and other punishment such as blacklisting by the Public Procurement Monitoring. Most of the road projects handled by Shailung in Kathmandu Valley are in dire straits but, according to officials at the Road Department, the company has not yet been blacklisted.