KATHMANDU, Aug 8: It has come to light that government officials intentionally deferred for 17 months the testing of the main canal at Sikta Irrigation Project after formally taking over the project from the contractor.
The deferral allowed the contractor, Kalika Construction Pvt Ltd, to walk free from any responsibility of repairing construction defect. The canal construction testing was conducted only three weeks ago although the defect liability period (DLP) for the project had expired in February 2017. During the DLP, the service provider is responsible for all repairs and damage restoration.
An additional nine months of DPL was signed after the initial period ended on May 1, 2016, according to Director General of the Department of Irrigation (DoI) Saroj Pandit. Sources privy to developments and a former government secretary claim that the deferral of the testing till after the DPL was intentional and should be investigated for possible abuse of authority and corruption.
Officials of the Department of Irrigation confirmed that the DLP has not been renewed again.
This means more taxpayer money will now be needed to repair the damage to the main canal that occurred on July 23 during testing with a water flow of only 5 cumecs. The canal is designed for a flow of 50 cumecs.
“Testing should have been done during the DLP,” said Dan Ratna Shakya, DoI spokesperson. He was not forthcoming on details.
Water has yet to be supplied to farmers through the canal. Meanwhile the contractor has claimed that it is not responsible for any damage now. The contractor had handed over the project to DoI in May 2015 after five days of inspection, according to a project handover document obtained by Republica.
Testing of the construction work after the defect liability period can be attributed to undue influence or the height of negligence, according to a former government secretary.
Surya Nath Upadhyay, former secretary at the Ministry of Water Resources (now Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation), stated that the contractor cannot be held accountable after the DLP, and the case at hand may be one of serious lapses and also a grave matter of abuse of authority.
“This sort of negligence should be duly investigated and those involved subjected to action,” claimed Upadhyay, who was also chief of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority from 2001 to 2007.
Asked why the testing was done after DLP, DG of DoI Saroj Pandit claimed that it was not mandatory to conduct such testing during DLP. No investigation team had ever been instituted by the ministry and department for probing any defect in a major irrigation project of the country, he said. “We have asked the project management unit based at the project site in Banke to assess the damage,” said Pandit. He, however, avoided several questions and only referred to the project management unit. Ramesh Banset, who heads the unit, has not been responding to several efforts to seek his comments.
The same contractor had repaired another part of the irrigation canal damaged during the DLP. According to a press release issued last week, the ministry claims that the contractor is responsible for damage repair now also.