Why do development projects take frustratingly long time to complete in Nepal? Why does the quality of completed projects often remain substandard? Because of red tapes, because our process of allocating budget for such projects is flawed and because we face shortage of construction materials, we are told. All of these explanations, in light of new reports, seem to be only a part of the bigger problem. Detailed reports forwarded by the district administration offices across the country to Home Ministry have shown that a majority of contractors involved in construction of both big and small infrastructure projects are either delaying the projects or carrying out substandard works. On Saturday, in a surprise inspection, Biratnagar Metropolitan City Office found that Tundiraman Construction Service Pvt Ltd was carrying out road construction using sub-standard materials. Three officials of the company, including the project manager Rabi Panta, have been arrested. Officials of Road Division Office have also been booked. The metropolis office has asked the road division office to take necessary measures to ensure quality construction works. Besides, over 300 of a total 538 development projects being constructed by various contractors in Kathmandu have already crossed the construction deadline but are yet to be completed. Reports of Ilam District Administration Office (DAO) show that 29 development projects are yet to be completed due to delay on the part of the contractors. This is the case with almost every project across the country. The government should take every possible punitive action against the wrongdoers.
Ministry of Home Affairs has rightly initiated action against them. It has directed the district authorities to take legal action against such contractors. After holding a meeting with the representatives of the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport and the Ministry of Urban Development, Home Ministry has directed the district bodies to coordinate with the authorities and find the ‘erring’ contractors. Jumla DAO has warned to take legal action if the contractors who have halted construction works under various pretexts do not resume their work within the next five days. These are good measures but there is reason to doubt that faulty contractors won’t be able to escape the punishment. Those prosecuted by the government are often released under political pressure.
The government in May had taken bold step against operators of transport syndicate. It had sent a positive message that the government is becoming serious about establishing the rule of law. But situation on the ground has not changed much. Even today transport syndicates are running the show with no regard to providing effective services to the passengers. One hundred days in office, many of the promises of prime minister K P Sharma Oli have already started to sound hollow. With the decision to grant presidential pardon to murder convict Bal Krishna Dhungel it has already lost the public support that it had enjoyed in the initial days. The government must deal with the unscrupulous contractors strictly. If the Oli government is to prove its commitment of zero tolerance against corruption and irregularities it should stand firm against those who grab the projects but do not complete them or use substandard materials just to earn profit.