Public Procurement Review Committee to look into alleged irregularity in selection of consultant for Nijgadh expresswayThe committee is set to hear from the army and the complainants on Friday.
The Public Procurement Review Committee is set to look into alleged irregularity on the part of the Nepal Army in selecting the Design and Construction Supervision consultant for the Kathmandu-Tarai expressway.
The army’s decision to select the Korea-based Yooshin Engineering as consultant for the multi-billion rupee project on March 31, was dragged into controversy after the companies that lost the bid alleged that the provisions of the Public Procurement Act were breached when the selection was done.
The review committee has summoned the army and representatives of the complainants for the hearing scheduled for Friday. “We have been summoned for a hearing on Friday,”Brigadier General Bigyan Dev Pandey, spokesperson for the army told the Post.
SMEC Australia Pvt Ltd, and Spain-based Eptisa Company—the two other companies in contention for the contract along with Yooshin— had filed a complaint at the Public Procurement Monitoring Office saying that the army unduly favoured the Korean company in the selection process.
Following the complaints, the monitoring body wrote to the army three times on April 17, 20 and 21 seeking documents based on which it selected Yooshin for the job. However, the army didn’t provide adequate information. The review committee then took up the case.
“As the review committee is looking into the case it will take a decision on the matter,” said Yagyaraj Koirala, spokesperson for the monitoring office.
SMEC and Eptisa claim that the army sent a letter of intent to Yooshin to sign an agreement for the consultancy work on March 31, just a few hours after opening the financial proposals filed by the three interested companies.
“The financial proposal papers Yooshin filed bears the company seals only on the first page, though the seal is needed on every page, as per the Public Procurement Act,” reads one of the allegations made by the two companies. “Omission of the company seal raises concern over the completeness and authenticity of the financial proposal, which has been neglected during the evaluation.”
The two complaining companies argue that the army suspiciously picked the Korean company skipping provisions in the Procurement Act. According to section 37 of the Act, a public entity procuring a good or service needs to hold negotiations with the proponent selected over the contract’s terms of reference and scope of the proposed services, progress report, and facility to be made available by the public entity.
Similarly, section 38 (2) of the Act envisions that seven days are required for the entire process to be completed. But the army completed the process in a matter of hours—that too when the country was under a lockdown, according to the complaining companies.
But the army insists that it has followed procedures to select Yooshin. “ We will present the needed documents and our stand before the committee,” Pandey told the Post without divulging any details.
The expressway has been dragged into controversy for other reasons as well. In December last year, the army had to scrap its decision to select six international consulting firms to assist in the construction of Kathmandu-Tarai expressway after a probe showed the evaluation criteria for the selection were leaked to probable bidders before the bids were called.
Based on the findings of a court of inquiry of the army, the decision to select five Chinese and a Turkish company was cancelled. However, action wasn’t taken against anyone involved in the process saying it was “unintentional”.
Locals residents of Khokana, the expressway’s entry point to the Valley, have long been protesting against the national pride project as it runs through their religious and cultural sites.
The project, handed over to the army in August 2017 ,was supposed to be completed by August 2021. But the army has said that the expressway, which will reduce the travel time between Kathmandu and Nijgadh in Bara district to an hour, will be completed only by May 2024. The estimated cost of the project stands at Rs 213 billion.