NT ‘not supportive’ in PAC probe into 4G procurement
February 26, 2019 07:06 AM NPT
KATHAMNDU, Feb 26: Amid concern among lawmakers of both the ruling and main opposition parties over the possibility of irregularities in the procurement of 4G equipment, Nepal Telecom (NT) is not being supportive in an investigation being carried out by parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
The state-owned telecom giant has declined to provide information sought on the procurement of 4G equipment and technology.
PAC has initiated investigations into the purchase of technology for the expansion of 4G internet service across the country after receiving complaints that the costs have been bloated. PAC and some lawmakers on the Finance Committee are under the assumption that there has been massive financial embezzlement in the multi-billion rupee procurements.
NT has declined to furnish the list of those on the tender evaluation committee or the sources for prices quoted in tender bids.
NT, in a letter submitted to PAC last week, said the names on the tender evaluation committee are confidential. It said the PAC can send its officials to NT to study the relevant documents.
The other documents NT has declined to furnish are the sources of the prices that the bidders have quoted in their tenders, saying the tender documents did not contain any such information.
NT has also declined to furnish some other documents including the proposals received from the bidders. It said that sending such a bulky volume of documents was not practical.
PAC has, however, received other documents on the 4G expansion including details of estimated costs, the names of those on the board of directors that approved the estimated costs, and the minutes of its decisions.
NT has already awarded the contract to two companies-- CCSI and ZTE-- for two separate packages under the expansion of 4G equipment across the country. NT awarded a contract to CCSI, Hong Kong for Radio Access Network (RAN) and to ZTE, China for Core Network.
PAC Secretary Rojnath Pandey informed that NT has not provided essential information and the committee would again ask for the documents soon.
NT introduced 4G technology in Kathmandu and Pokhara in January, 2017 and plans to expand the high-speed internet service across the country after installation of the new technology.
Ncell, which started its 4G service six months later, has already reached over 20 districts.
NT’s managing director did not respond to phone calls and SMS while its spokesperson Prativa Vaidya said she could not furnish any comment immediately.
Earlier, parliament’s Finance Committee, which started investigation alongside PAC, had directed NT to complete the 4G expansion project within a year, after holding discussions on the matter on January 30. NT awarded the 4G expansion project to the two Chinese companies a few days after parliament gave the nod on February 3.
Finance Committee lawmakers had raised questions over the project cost, stating that a private operator was procuring the same service for Rs 3-4 billion. NT is procuring the technology at a cost of Rs 19 billion.
Currently, two other telecom companies, Ncell and Smart Cell, are providing 4G Internet services. Ncell has its services in 21 major cities across the country while Smart Cell has 4G internet services in Kathmandu, Pokhara and a few other cities.