KATHMANDU, May 27: Small and medium-size civil contractors have accused the big contractors of tarnishing the image of the sector by not doing their work in time and by lobbying bureaucrats to land contracts.
The big contractors, who number only a handful, were also accused of engaging in syndicates and cartels to secure contracts and crowd out small and medium-size operators.
They were speaking at a closed session of the special annual general meeting of the Federation of Contractors’ Associations of Nepal (FCAN) on Friday in Kathmandu.
The accusations come at a time when the government has taken a tough stance against non-performing contractors and has also rounded up a few of them. But the small contractors have challenged the government to go after the big contractors also.
Speaking at the special meeting, former president of FCAN Kaski chapter Rishi Ram Gautam urged the FCAN leadership to get the government to first take action against those big contractors who have cornered contracts by lumping various projects into one big contract and then remained idle for years.
“Big contractors have bought the government officials with kickback and landed projects at estimated cost and without competition, thus crowding us (small contractors) out ,” said Gautam.
Gautam said, “The big contractors have prevailed on officials to lump the construction projects of 10 to 15 school buildings into one project or colluded to corral a dozen bridge or road projects in different districts into a single deal to avoid competition.”
Such cartel activity is illegal, Gautam told Republica on Saturday.
With collusion, they have stolen taxpayer money in billions of rupees every year by barring open competition which could go lower by as much as 15 to 25 percent of the project's estimated costs and benfit the goverment. Contractors and officials colluded to steal Rs 8-14 billion, according to a news report carried by Republica back in January.
Gautam also said that FCAN should ask the government to protect the small contractor.
He was greeted with much clapping and shouts of approval, according to participants who talked to Republica. And several other participants also echoed Gautam, questioning the integrity of the big contractors and the ways they influence government officials. They also questioned FCAN’s responding only to the big fish among contractors and ignoring small fry.
Kedar Khadka, a former FCAN central member, also spoke of the unpopularity of the big operators and called for change.
Talking to Republica, Gautam said on Saturday that the hall endorsed his proposal with a majority but the official minutes did not reflect this. However, the big contractors who were present had remained silent at the meeting.
The most influential contractors are Ramesh Sharma of Sharma and Company, Bikram Pande of Kalika Construction, Jaya Ram Lamichhane of Swachchhanda Nirman Sewa, Jip Tshering Lama of Lama Construction, Mohan Acharya of Rasuwa Construction and Rishi Subedi of Tundi Construction.