KATHMANDU, Aug 11: A day after the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation started investigation into possible irregularities in the construction of the Sikta Irrigation Project, the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has also formed a panel to investigate into the charges of irregularities in the multi-billion-rupee national pride project.
The CIAA, issuing a press statement on Friday, informed that the anti-graft body has formed a five-member probe committee led by a technical joint-secretary for the investigation into the allegations of irregularities in the construction of the main canal of the project.
“Our probe team has already started a comprehensive investigation into the allegations of irregularities in the project. The team has been asked to carry out a field visit if needed and also study the reports of past CIAA investigations into the project, and complete the investigation as soon as possible,” CIAA spokesman Rameshwar Dangal said.
"Our probe team has already started a comprehensive investigation...the team has been asked to carry out a field visit if needed and also study the reports of past CIAA investigations into the project..."
The CIAA has said its serious attention was drawn to the project amid claims by media reports that faulty design and substandard construction by the contractor were responsible for the collapse of the main canal of the irrigation project and how government officials were protecting the contractor.
On Thursday, the ministry of energy, water resources and irrigation formed a six-member probe committee led by Joint-Secretary Sushil Chandra Tiwari to investigate into possible wrongdoings in the project, which can irrigate almost 43,000 hectares of land in Banke district upon completion. The ministry started its investigation on the instruction of the energy minister. The committee has been given 15 days to come up with its report.
The canal which collapsed during testing was constructed by Kalika Construction Pvt Ltd, which is owned by former lawmaker Bikram Pandey, also a former minister.
Sources privy to the development said that government officials intentionally deferred for 17 months the testing of the main canal of the project after formally taking over the project from the contractor. The deferral allowed the contractor to walk free from any responsibility of repairing the 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.
If the canal construction testing was conducted before the defect liability period (DLP) of the project that had expired in February 2017, the government could have held the contractor responsible for all repairs and damage restoration. Now tax payers might have to bear the burden of repair and maintenance.