Nepal Army fails to spend budget for the expressway againCalling bids for complex bridges and tunnels before the new fiscal year was not possible, Brig-Gen Pandey says.
The Nepal Army is once again returning around half of the budget released for the Kathmandu-Tarai expressway project. The government had approved Rs 15 billion for the national pride project in the current fiscal year. But the national defence force, which took over the project in 2017, was unable to spend the money.
Briefing the Development Committee of Parliament on Monday, the Army said it wouldn’t be able to spend Rs 7 billion of the budget meant for the country’s first expressway project. Last year, too, the Army had returned Rs 9 billion of the Rs 15 billion released for the project, saying there was no scope for calling international bids for contractors before the fiscal year ended.
The Army has furnished the same reason this year.
“It doesn’t seem possible to call the biddings for complex bridges and tunnels before the new fiscal year begins. Therefore, we have to return the budget,” Brig-Gen Biygyan Dev Pandey, spokesperson for the Army, told the Post on Monday.
He said they would first need to select international consultants to provide overall support in the construction of the expressway.
The consultants will prepare the bidding documents based on the detail project report before inviting bids.
Pandey said the selection of consultants would be completed by April and the bidding process for contractors will start by June. The new fiscal year begins in mid-July.
Though the Army had earlier selected six international firms—five Chinese and one Turkish—to provide consultative service, the process was scrapped after a probe found that the selection criteria were leaked as a result of technical error.
“It was a technical error and the investigation showed there was no malafide intention behind the leak,” Pandey had said in a press meet on December 9 last year.
Following the probe findings, the Army had issued a warning to project head Brig-Gen Sharad Lal Shrestha.
Kalyani Khadka, the chairperson of the parliamentary committee, said the Army had cited delay in the approval of detail project report and the cancellation of the bidding project for the delay in calling the bidding.
The project that was supposed to conclude by August 2021 has been pushed back by around three years to May 2024. The Army has said the expressway would reduce the travel time between Kathmandu and Nijgadh in Bara district to an hour.
Pandey said they had shortlisted five international firms as consultants. “The delay in bidding will not push back the completion deadline,” he said.
The detailed project report was endorsed by the Cabinet on August 18, two years after the construction began.
The detailed project report has estimated the project cost at Rs213 billion—Rs 80 billion more than what was projected by an Indian consortium of Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Transportation Networks, IL&FS Engineering and Construction, and Suryavir Infrastructure Construction in 2015.
The expressway has three tunnels with a total length of 6.415 km that will be constructed in three different sections of the 72.5 km long roadway. Similarly, out of 86 bridges along the expressway, 16 have been categorised as the special ones requiring international contractors for construction.
“The compulsion for the Army to return the money isn’t a good sign. We hope the deadline is not extended again,” said Rajendra Lingden, a member of the parliamentary committee, told the Post.