KATHMANDU, Oct 29: The then State Minister for Physical Planning and Works Sanjaya Kumar Sah did not return the Toyota Prado car, which he used in the capacity of state minister, to Melamchi Water Supply Project. Police recovered the car with registration number Ba 4 Cha 1503 left in broken state in a forest in Mahottari district some two years ago.
Although the Central Regional Police Office Hetauda mulled over repairing and using the vehicle, it dropped the plan after finding it economically unfeasible to repair. The Police Regional Office later informed the Melamchi Water Supply Project that the latter’s broken vehicle was in their office.
Some two years ago, a brand new Toyota Prado vehicle (Ba 1 Jha 8759) purchased by the project was taken by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for its use. Although the vehicle is still seen on the Kathmandu streets, Melamchi Project officials themselves are unaware as to who is using that vehicle taken for use by the PMO.
Shortly after assuming his office, the then secretary at the Ministry of Urban Development Dipendra Nath Sharma exerted pressure on senior officials of Melamchi Project to provide him their most expensive and luxurious vehicle. The project officials delivered a newly bought Toyota Prado Car with registration number Ba 8 Cha 6760 to the ministry. Secretary Sharma removed the white number plate that indicates government-owned vehicle and installed a red number plate and he has been using the vehicle for his private use to this day.
In yet another case of misuse of Melamchi Project’s vehicle, Bhai Kaji Tiwari has also been using Melamchi Project’s Toyota Prado car with registration number Ba 1 Jha 8763 right since he was appointed commissioner of the Kathmandu Valley Development Authority (KVDA). Although KVDA does not have any jurisdiction as such over the Melamchi Project, Tiwari has been using the vehicle using his political connections, sources said.
Tiwari, however, claimed that the vehicle was brought by the then commissioner of KVDA, Keshav Sthapit. Tiwari also claimed that his office had spent several millions to repair the vehicle.
These are just a few cases of how the vehicles of Melamchi Drinking Water Project are being grossly misused by government officials.
As the Melamchi Project misses yet another deadline to distribute water in Dashain festival, a joint secretary at the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation even joked that Melamchi is not a water supply project but a ‘vehicles supply’ project.
According to details obtained by Republica, Melamchi Project has about 60 expensive vehicles. While 30 of them are being used by the project’s consultants, remaining others are used by project staffers, politicians, and ‘influential’ bureaucrats.
However, it is not the vehicles of Melamchi Project alone that are misused by those with power and influence. Earlier, the PMO had borrowed two expensive vehicles (Ba 1 Jha 1029 and Ba 1 Jha 1030) from Chameliya Hydropower Project. But after the move was widely criticized, the government purchased the two vehicles from Chameliya.
Senior advocate and the chairman of the Transparency International-Nepal Shree Hari Aryal said the ongoing misuse of project vehicles by government officials is unethical and inappropriate. “The project officials also should not distribute vehicles arbitrarily in order to appease the politicians and bureaucrats. It is equally wrong for the politicians and officials to demand vehicles from the project,” he said.
Spokesperson of the Melamchi Drinking Water Project Rajendra Pant said they had provided vehicle as concerned offices requested them for vehicles. Asked on what grounds those vehicles were provided, Pant said, “Although there is no rule or criteria about supplying the project vehicles, we have been providing them as per the request by the higher authorities,” he said.
Senior Advocate and Transparency International’s Acharya said government should take action against the government officials who are misusing the Melamchi vehicles.