Embezzlement of billions of rupees suspected in embossed number plate contract

Published On: March 20, 2024 08:06 PM NPT By: Tapendra Karki

CIAA asks payment details from DoTM 

KATHMANDU, March 20: The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has initiated an inquiry and has asked for payment details on the suspicion of financial irregularities amounting to billions of rupees in connection with the embossed number plate contract.

It is suspected that more than half of the Rs 4.79 billion contract was handled irregularly. Acting on a complaint regarding financial discrepancies, the CIAA wrote a letter to the Department of Transportation Management (DoTM) on February 13, seeking details on the payment of the contract amount.

On May 13, 2016, the government signed a contract with 'Decatur Tiger IT' company for the installation of embossed number plates on 2.5 million vehicles within 60 months (until June 1, 2021). The agreement was made for a total of Rs 4,778,700,000 (USD 4,378,700), under the BOOT model.

The DoTM has not paid all the amount as per the agreement. The director general of the DoTM, Uddhav Rijal, has refrained from paying the remaining amount, citing potential financial discrepancies.

The letter sent by the CIAA to the DoTM states, "In relation to complaints regarding preparation of cost estimates and specifications so as to benefit a certain company in the international bid for the purchase of embossed number plates called by the Department of Transportation, it is requested to provide the details of the amount paid to a company named Decatur-Tiger IT from the beginning to date for the supply of embossed number plates for investigation purposes. Along with the original copy of all the related documents, contracts, agreements, and other relevant documents including Goshwara Voucher to the office of the CIAA as soon as possible.”

According to sources, French company Selp SAS, two Bangladeshi companies - Computer Services Limited and Decatur-Tiger IT and Pingao - JKG Consortium had submitted tenders for the installation of embossed number plates. Of which Decatur-Tiger IT was awarded the contract. Sources claim that the cost estimates and specifications were tailored to favor this specific company. 

According to sources, the DoTM has provided the documents as per the demand of the CIAA. Director General of the DoTM Rijal has already informed the newly appointed Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Physical Infrastructure & Transportation Raghubir Mahaseth that the DoTM will not be able to make further payments.

"The director general of the DoTM, Uddhav Rijal, has said that the DoTM cannot pay the amount for the installation of embossed number plates," said a source at the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport. Decatur started printing and installing embossed number plates on August 21, 2017. The DoTM had an agreement to produce 2.5 million number plates.

The company has urged the DoTM to pay the amount. The contractor company has so far produced 412,000 units of embossed numbers and 78,000 have been installed. Despite plans for 10 RFID gates for monitoring, only seven have been constructed.

This means it is concluded that the number plate connection itself has failed. The DoTM has received 100 RFID devices.

Sources claim that government contracts for embossed number plate installation may expose vulnerabilities, resulting in additional financial burdens on the state and potential penalties.

In the agreement with Decatur-Tiger IT, a joint venture company of Bangladesh and America, there is a provision that “if work completion is delayed due to government-induced disruptions, the contractor will be entitled to 95 percent of the contract amount."

DoTM Director General Rijal said that he was not aware of the CIAA's demand for payment details. "I don't have any information about the CIAA’s investigation. I don't even know if the CIAA has sought payment details; it could be about something else. I am currently out, I will ascertain the matter once I reach the office," Rijal told Republica.

According to the CIAA, embossed number plates represent the latest vehicle management technology, but concerns have been raised about the additional burden they impose on citizens. IT experts suggest that while mechanical embossed plates may aid in monitoring, their compatibility with modern technology depends on integration with GPS-based models.

Sources said that the CIAA is also consulting an IT expert on this matter. The then director general of the DOTM, Madhu Sudan Burlakoti, insisted on installing GPS-based embossed number plates.

However, following his removal, Chandraman Shrestha assumed the position and opted for RFID-based implementation. The contract extension expired in mid-November.

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