A Parsa suspension bridge work remains stalled three years on. Locals bear the bruntLocal consumer committee, the contractor, and rural municipality, blame each other for the delay as locals bear the brunt.
An under construction suspension bridge across the Oriya River at Ghordaura in Dhobini Rural Municipality of Parsa district has been left incomplete for more than five years. The locals have accused the consumer committee of financial irregularities and voicing their concerns for the past two years.
Achchhelal Thakur, a local of Ghordaura, said villagers have to take a detour through Inarwa, and bordering Indian villages to reach Birgunj, where most government administrative centres are located.
“The construction of the bridge was started more than four years ago, yet to date, not even 10 percent of the construction has been completed,” said Thakur. “Due to the absence of a bridge over the Oriya river, we have to travel for hours to reach hospitals, schools and markets in Birgunj.”
Ghordaura has just one primary school and a health post, prompting locals to frequently travel to Birgunj for healthcare and educational needs. “Secondary and higher-level students are compelled to take a long and winding route to reach their schools. During the rainy season even that route becomes inaccessible. We suffer the most during medical emergencies. We have been asking the authorities to expedite the project, but they haven’t heeded,” said Thakur.
The construction contract totalling Rs9.5 million was awarded to the local consumer committee in the fiscal year 2018-19, according to the rural municipality. The bridge was supposed to be completed in eight months after the signing of the contract. The local unit has released Rs4.4 million so far for the project, but only two pillars have been erected at the construction site.
Mohammad Nawaz Hussain, chief administrative officer of the rural municipality, said that his office had on November 25, 2021 written to the consumer committee requesting them to return the allocated funds along with accrued interest. “The Auditor General’s office in the fiscal year 2019-20 had instructed the rural municipality to send a legal notice to the consumer committee demanding return of the money along with accrued interest,” said Hussain. “The total amount including interest, has now reached Rs5.1 million. But the committee has not responded to the notice. They have neither deposited the money in the rural municipality’s bank account nor have resumed the construction work,” said Hussain.
Meanwhile, Suresh Prasad Kurmi, chairman of the consumer committee, says he has no information regarding the advance paid by the rural municipality to the consumer committee.
“I don't know how much money has been deposited by the rural municipality into the bank account of the committee or how much has been withdrawn from the account. We have not been able to complete the construction of the suspension bridge due to some issues in the committee,” said Kurmi. “A member of the committee had convinced me to sign a blank cheque. He must be behind the disappearance of the money. We are looking into the matter.”
The accused member refused to respond to the Post’s queries and the accusation made by the chairman of the consumer committee.
Rule 97 (5) of the Public Procurement Regulations 2064, states that after the conclusion of the procurement contract pursuant to sub-rule (3), a public entity may make an advance of an amount not exceeding one-third of the contract price to such committee or community. The public entity shall make settlement prior to making payment of the final installment of the advance so made.
Santosh Patel, a local leader from Dhobini Rural Municipality, holds both the rural municipality and the consumer committee as responsible for the negligence in the construction of the bridge. The rural municipality was supposed to provide an initial payment of Rs3.2 million, but they ended up disbursing Rs4.4 million, and the committee failed to complete the work even after receiving the money.
“Currently, the committee and the rural municipality are pointing fingers at each other, while the locals are suffering. Those responsible for the default should be investigated. I see a collusion between the committee and the rural municipality officials,” said Patel.
Some two years ago, the locals of Ghordaura filed a complaint against both the committee and the rural municipality at the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority, but so far no action has been taken against them.