Nepali politicians have for too long promoted and protected contractors who should be in jail for delaying major infrastructure works. Sharda Prasad Adhikari is the perfect example of Nepal’s rotten political protectionism. Co-chair of ruling Nepal Communist Party, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, lives in Adhikari’s house in Khumaltar. Adhikari’s company Shailung-Aravali Infrapower JV secured a 15-kilometer Bhatkepati-Nagarkot road project some five years ago. The company bagged the contract by bidding 40 percent below the cost estimated by the government, and the project should have been completed in two years. Adhikari should be in jail for massive delays in the project, but he is being rewarded with ever more lucrative contracts. NCP Co-chair Dahal is one of many politicians who do the bidding for contractors and enjoy the kickback from them.
The disturbing nexus of politicians and contractors is not only causing delay of major projects but also impacting people’s lives in many ways. Kathmandu’s people have to endure the pain of dust, potholes and unmanaged roads on a daily basis. Almost all the big contracts are awarded to those who are close to powerful politicians. And, protected by powerful politicians, the contractors feel no obligation to finish the projects on time. Prime Minister KP Oli has basically done nothing to change the sickening corruption in big projects. His own people and party leaders are enjoying the benefits of such corruption. Perhaps he does not feel a sense of urgency to act on behalf of the people. May be PM Oli does not realize that the tax payers’ money should be put in proper use. May be the people around him never dare to report the wrongdoings for fear of themselves being exposed.
Oli’s promise of “zero tolerance” against corruption sounds like a cruel joke on the people. No big contractors so far have faced crippling punishment. No big contractors have felt the need to expedite the projects under their belt. And no politicians, be it the ruling party or the opposition, have felt the need to raise the issue of massive corruption happening in big projects.
If PM Oli is still interested to deliver on the promises he made during the last general election, he must act swiftly.
Contractors, no matter who are protecting them, must be punished in a way that the others never dare delay the projects. If the existing laws are not enough to punish, then the two-thirds government can easily amend them rather quickly. Oli has no excuse to not act. But will he? We want to be proven wrong at the earliest.