CIAA sues Pappu Construction’s Rauniyar, 11 others

Published On: October 6, 2018 07:07 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

Seeks Rs 380 million from Pappu alone

KATHMANDU, Oct 6: The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has filed a corruption case against lawmaker Hari Narayan Rauniyar, his son Sumit and 10 others at the Special Court on charges of using sub-standard materials in the construction of the Jabdighat Bridge over the Babai River. Sumit Rauniyar runs Pappu Construction Company.

They are accused of deviating from the stated specifications in the bridge construction and other acts of negligence.

The CIAA said the anti-graft body started an investigation after it received complaints that the bridge, which was built by Pappu Construction Company, collapsed even before it could be inaugurated and that it was not structurally straight right from the beginning of construction.

The CIAA on Friday filed a corruption case against 12 individuals including lawmaker Rauniyar and his son. Rauniyar, who has bagged contracts for several other multi-billion-rupee construction projects, has drawn criticism for never completing his work in time and for compromising on quality of construction.

Five locals of Rautahat had died after a boat carrying them across the Lalbakaiya river hit a pillar of an under-construction bridge and capsized. Locals sued Pappu Construction, saying the accident took place due to the company’s failure to build the bridge in time. Had the bridge been in place, they wouldn’t have had to use the boat, they said. The bridge was due to be completed in July, 2017.

Hari Narayan Rauniyar, who was elected lawmaker from the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal, is considered one of the most influential contractors. Questions were raised against him since a long time but the authorities mandated to oversee construction projects remained silent because of his strong political connections. 

He has courted controversy after being elected lawmaker. No action was taken even after his misdeeds in the construction sector were repeatedly exposed. In the face of widespread criticism, Hari Narayan did hand over ownership of his construction company to his son. But many see this as a mere ploy. 

His son Sumit has reportedly left the country as police came after him for his refusal to appear before the local administration in connection with the boat capsize incident.

After the Jabdighat bridge constructed over the Babai River collapsed in August last year, the anti-graft body started an investigation. 

Complaints were lodged at the CIAA alleging that Pappu Construction used substandard construction materials and tinkered with the original design in collusion with officials of the roads department. 

The anti-graft body has also sued 10 engineers assigned to oversee the bridge construction work. 

The CIAA also accused officials of making payments without checking the quality of the construction materials and the work at the site.

The officials include the then chiefs of the Division Road Office, Nepalgunj – Bhanu Joshi, Manoj Shrestha, Ramesh Kumar Yadav – and acting division chief Navaraj KC. Other engineers at the office, Prem Prasad Chuwai, Hari Bahadur Khadka, Dipendra Bista and sub-engineers Karma Tshering Sherpa and Govinda Giri are being sued on charges of colluding with the contractors instead of monitoring the project for adherence to set criteria.

Referring to the technical analysis, the CIAA charge sheet states that there was sheer negligence by the construction company, especially in fixing the level line and the pier height. 

But government engineers assigned to oversee the construction work overlooked the lapses. 

The charge sheet filed by the anti-graft body at the Special Court has claimed Rs 380 million from lawmaker Hari Narayan and his son Sumit. 

Powerful Rauniyar 
Several of the construction company’s projects, especially bridges, with outlays totaling a minimum of Rs 7 billion, have seen time and cost overruns. Monitoring and oversight agencies were too meek to punish the construction company owned by lawmaker Rauniyar because of his political clout. 

The ministries handling development projects and other monitoring agencies could have imposed fines, terminated the contract or recommended blacklisting it at the Public Procurement Monitoring Office (PPMO) but they didn’t. Only one contract with Pappu was terminated though monitoring teams have found breaches of contract in almost all of the dozens of contracts it was given.

There was an attempt to blacklist Pappu some eight years ago. Erstwhile head of the Hetauda Division Road Office Dayananda Jha had taken action against Pappu Construction for submitting fake documents to obtain contracts. This prompted the authorities to blacklist the company. But Jha had to pay a heavy price for his action.

Jha’s seniors supported him but then prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and then minister for physical infrastructure Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar stayed aloof. And Rauniyar walked free.

Rauniyar lodged a complaint at the CIAA against Jha, who was grilled by the watchdog officials. Under pressure from Pappu, Jha was transferred to the Department of Roads and left without any work for months.

Rauniyar also managed to influence the PPMO and had the blacklisting decision put on hold. 

A few years back, the Department of Roads had fined Pappu Rs 50 million for non-performance on the Kohalpur-Nepalgunj road project. But he later won the court case, according to the department.

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