September 20, 2018 02:00 AM NPT
The list of projects constructed by national army is long. It has constructed 1,030 kilometres of road in different parts of the country, particularly linking north-south remote parts of Nepal to the rest of the country. These undertakings include Hile-Ldguwaghat (28km), Katari-Okhaldhunga (88km), Kanti Lokmarg (65km), Trishuli Somdang (105km), Gorkha Mankamana Sadak (36km) so on and so forth. This is why Nepal Army still enjoys fair degree of popularity and trust among people. And this is why the army is entrusted to build mega projects. There still is the impression that Army can do no wrong and that this apolitical institution thinks of Nepal’s good and nothing less. However, recent trends show otherwise.
The institution has started to court controversy in cases where its officials are seen to tweak the laws and tamper with the system to make money purportedly for the institution and the personnel but mainly for the top officers. Reports of top army officers amassing disproportionate amount of wealth are becoming common these days. Nepal Army is increasingly being seen as the profit making institution at the cost of transparency, due process and tax payers’ money. Republica has discovered that Nepal Army proposed adding two new tunnels and expanding the previously planned tunnel along the Kathmandu-Tarai Expressway. And this is no simple proposal. It will require additional investment of around Rs 5 billion and also make the structure more complex. The length of tunnel along the 76-km expressway will reach 6.3 km, instead of 1.35 that was estimated during its feasibility study. What is troubling is that the proposal is learned to have been made to change the project cost and schedule. For this, the NA is reportedly pressuring the government to endorse the costly proposal. This is questionable because the engineers claim there are cheaper options available to manage the alignments and avoid overlap with Kanti Rajpath—the reason cited to alter the project design and the cost. It shows something is fishy about the whole affair.
One of the reasons NA was chosen for this project was the belief that it would complete the project on time, economically and transparently. But it has already been spending billions without even preparing a detailed project report of the project. Nepal Army must furnish the credible rationales for extending the length of tunnels at the cost of tax payer money. Why must it be done? If cheaper options are available why are those options not being considered? Like every institution, Nepal Army should be transparent and accountable to the people. It can choose to dismiss public concerns only at the cost of its own infamy. Nepal Army must not build the image of the institution that cares nothing about transparency and accountability.