KATHMANDU, Jan 24: The government has decided to retrieve the Rs 3 billion it had provided to Sajha Yatayat six months ago to purchase 300 electric buses.
A cabinet meeting held last week decided to ask the cooperative that runs public transportation to return Rs 3 billion along with the interest accrued on the fund.
Minister for Communication and Information Gokul Prasad Baskota said that the government decided to get the money back from Sajha Yatayat after the cooperative could not operate the electric buses within the stipulated time. Earlier in May last year, the government had injected Rs 3 billion in Sajha Yatayat Sahakari Sanstha Ltd as share capital to purchase 300 electric buses for the capital city. The government has over 50 percent of stake in the cooperative.
“Though the government provided Rs 3 billion to Sajha Yatayat in the form of share investment to purchase 300 electric buses and operate them, the organization could not operate such buses within the stipulated time,” said Baskota, who is also the government spokesperson. “So, the government has decided to take back Rs 3 billion along with the interest accrued on the fund from the date when the money was provided to the organization,” he added.
The decision to retrieve the money provided to Sajha Yatayat comes nearly after three months of an intervention made by the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport (MoPIT) to block the process initiated by Sajha Yatayat to procure a fleet of clean-mode vehicles.
Minister Baskota also said that the MoPIT will be provided the fund for the procurement of the electric buses. However, the government’s decision to retrieve the fund from Sajha Yatayat will end the process that the cooperative has started to purchase the electric buses.
Back in September, the MoPIT had asked Sajha Yatayat to put on hold the process of procuring the electric buses claiming that the cooperative had altered the specifications that the government had provided to the cooperative to procure the electric buses. However, the government has not offered any specific plan on how the electric buses purchased by the ministry will be operated, raising questions on the government’s own commitment to promoting clean transportation.
Sajha Yatayat’s Chairman Kanak Mani Dixit said that he was ‘disheartened’ by the government’s decision. “It was an encouraging move by the government to go for electric public transportation. However, I am disheartened by the fact that the government gave no plausible reason on why it is backtracking on its own decision,” Dixit told Republica. He dismissed the government’s reasoning that Sajha Yatayat had delayed the process.
He said that it was the MoPIT’s letter of September 18 to put all the process of procurement on ‘status quo’ which had delayed the process even after an expert team comprising the representatives of the government had finalized all preparations for the procurement.
“We have made it clear that it was not possible to have the electric buses as quickly as some government officials wanted to have as the organization with the government’s majority shares need to follow procurement-related rules,” he said. “It was the prime minister’s push to have the electric buses operated through Sajha Yatayat. So, I wrote to the prime minister and tried to reach out to him but to no avail. Even if Sajha Yatayat won’t be buying the electric buses now, we wish the government a success in bringing such buses as soon as possible.”