The Rs 54 million contract is for setting up a video conferencing system
KATHMANDU, Dec 30: The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has awarded a contract to set up a video conferencing system for the ‘war room’ at the PMO to Chinese company Huawei, in breach of public procurement laws. The system is meant for rapid response to various issues of governance.
The contract was awarded to Huawei through direct negotiations and without any competition. A notice issued by the National Information Technology Center (NITC) calling for open competition to set up the conferencing system was cancelled following intervention by Prime Minister K P Oli’s chief political adviser Bishnu Rimal and honorary IT consultant at PMO Asgar Ali, said sources privy to the development.
China Communication Services (CCS), an agent of Huawei, was awarded the Rs 54.2 million contract on December 21, said a high-level source at PMO.
When asked about details of the contract, Joint Secretary at PMO Yamlal Bhusal, who was involved in negotiations with the agent, suggested asking the official spokesperson. But another member of the team, Hari Prasad Pokharel, confirmed that CCS has been awarded the contract.
Spokesperson at PMO Binod Kunwar said that he was not informed about any details except Huawei’s proposal of around Rs 50 million.
IT consultant Ali was also involved in the negotiations for the contact, breaching ethics that bar a consultant from such involvement. Also, Joint Secretary Bhusal, Technical Under Secretary at PMO Ramesh Paudel and computer engineer Hari |Prasad Pokharel were likewise involved in the deal.
The decision to award the contract to Huawei, cancelling open competition, comes just one and half months after Ali paid a visit to China at the invitation of Huawei Technologies. Republica has obtained evidence that computer engineer at PMO Pokhrel and Kshitiz Rimal, son of chief political adviser Bishnu Rimal, accompanied Ali during the Huawei-sponsored visit.
Ali, who is also associated with e-sewa, an online business company here, has been facing criticism for misusing his position as the prime minister’s IT consultant to build up a personal network with reputed international IT companies, in an instance of conflict of interest.
Adviser Rimal is also under conflict of interest because of the involvement of his son Kshitiz in the Huawei visit. Kshitiz also works with e-sewa, the company Ali is associated with.
NITC had called for tender bids for the video conference system at the PMO through a public notice on October 12 after the government allocated Rs 60 million for the purpose. Interestingly, the government cancelled the open tender right after Ali and Rimal junior’s visit to China, reportedly after Huawei failed to meet the specifications mentioned in the tender call.
Former chief secretary Bimal Koirala said that the involvement of the Prime minister’s advisers in financial dealings is improper conduct and illegal.
Since Ali’s visit to Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen, Nepal Telecom, the state-run company, has been preparing to award a contract for 4G expansion to China Communications Services International (CCSI), the international agent of Huawei.
Sources said Ali has been piling pressure on the authorities concerned to purchase equipment from Huawei for the 4G expansion, following his negotiations with the company.
Although Ali has claimed that he visited China at the invitation of the Chinese government, evidence obtained by Republica confirms that it was at the invitation of Huawei.
The company had referred to Ali and Rimal as its ‘distinguished guests’ during a meeting.
They also held discussions on various projects in Nepal at an official level.
Ali was also involved in awarding contracts to various firms through cabinet decisions and without open competition.
The contract for printing smart licenses was awarded to Malika Incorporate through a cabinet decision influenced by Ali.
Similarly, he has been piling pressure on Nepal Telecommunications Authority to award the contract for MDMS services to F1Soft, the mother company of e-sewa.