KATHMANDU, Sept 11: Secretary of Public Procurement Management Office (PPMO) Madhu Prasad Regmi sought time of Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli for August 19, the anniversary day of PPMO, to submit his office's annual report. But he was denied time.
This is not the first time that the PM's Office has refused to arrange time for the PPMO to submit its report to the Prime Minister. The representatives of office were denied appointments during the tenure of former Prime Ministers Sher Bahadur Deuba and Pushpa Kamal Dahal as well.
PPMO is a special agency under the PM's office constituted to regulate country's development projects by bringing about policy reforms. The office makes its reforms measures through its annual reports. Unfortunately, these remain largely unimplemented, according to two former PPMO secretaries that Republica talked to.
Denied time to hand over report to the Prime Minister, Secretary Regmi unveiled the report at his own office on the occasion of PPMO's anniversary day.
PPMO was established in 2008 to ensure procurement law compliance, train procurement staff of all public offices, issue circulars and also guidelines on matter of public procurement, and blacklist non-performing contractors/suppliers from one to three years, among others.
A major chunk of the government budget is spent on development projects like roads, public building and hydropower plants, among others. However, these projects are delayed most of the times and do not give desired results due to poor project execution. Non-performance by contractors is the other reason that affects project implementation and quality.
Contract compliance is a key to address these issues. However, PPMO -- the designated agency to monitor such compliance -- is suffering from lack of technical hands. Posts of five engineers, including one IT engineer, have remained vacant since for the past two years. The office has only one engineer now -- Joint Secretary Sunil Karna. Also, there is no full time officer to look into legal matter. The office hires engineers on daily wage basis whenever it requires the service of engineer.
PPMO Spokesperson Yagya Raj Koirala said that legal officer assigned to the Office is also overseeing legal issues of the Department of Industry.
While shortage of workforce has directly hit works to prepare better policy for public procurements, the office is also facing problems in revising the outdated Public Procurement Act of 2007.
"It is high time we made laws in new EPCF (Engineering, Procurement, Construction and Financing) modality as well and reviewed procurement policies for multibillion-rupee projects," a source at the office said, requesting anonymity as he is not authorized to talk to media.
Auditor General Tanka Mani Sharma, who happens to be a former secretary of PPMO, said the office has been facing shortage of workforce as its not 'attractive' for civil servants.
Not only staffers, secretaries sent to this agency feel that they are being dumped and look for quick transfer. Frequent transfer of secretaries at PPMO substantiates this claim.
All annual reports submitted by PPMO are gathering dust at the PM's Office and its recommendations are no implemented.
“PPMO has advised the government many times on recommendations on policy matters of public procurements. But its reform measures are not reflected in government policies and programs," Tulasi Prasad Situala, former secretary of the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, said.
In its Annual Report of 2017, then PPMO Secretary Binod KC had recommended for further investigation on collusion of contractors in procurements of Hetauda-Sindhuli-Chatara-Dharan and Galchi-Trishuli-Syaphrubeshi road projects. But now investigation as such was launched on the issue. Office of Auditor General had also called for further investigation on such collusions, in its annual report unveiled earlier in April.
Sitaula emphasized the need to provide needful budget for conducting research and studies for bringing about reforms in project managements to make PPMO attractive for its staffers and make the agency more relevant by making changes in the project management policies as advised by it.