KATHMANDU, April 5: As the Nepal Communist Party (NCP)-led government has courted a series of controversy at a time when the cases of Covid-19 are increasing in the country, a section of leaders of the ruling party has demanded a meeting of the Secretariat - the party's apex body - at the earliest. Of late, the government has drawn widespread criticism for a controversial procurement deal signed with a company to supply medical equipment to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Although the government initially awarded Omni Group, a business firm, the contract to supply medical equipment from China, it scrapped the agreement arguing that the company was unable to supply the logistics in time. The company, according to health officials involved in the procurement deal, could supply only 10 percent of the total demand by the time the given deadline expired.
The government had awarded Omni the contract without open competition and the prices of the logistics were three times higher than the prices paid by private hospitals while procuring the same items. Under enormous pressure from some party leaders and opposition parties, the government terminated the procurement deal with Omni.
Immediately after terminating the procurement deal, the government mandated Nepal Army to import the medical equipment. The decision, however, is not free from controversy. Some leaders in the party have expressed dissatisfaction over the decision to ask the army to import medical logistics even when the party is running one of the strongest governments in Nepal's parliamentary history. Some have gone to the extent of calling the government's move "a failure to handle the situation."
Doctors and nurses who are working in the frontline in the battle against the coronavirus have complained of not having personal protection gears and other required medical equipment due to mismanagement in arranging medical logistics from the government side. Despite the growing corona crisis, the prime minister is attending only the cabinet meetings. Another cross-ministry committee called Corona Crisis Management Committee headed by deputy Prime Minister Ishwar Pokharel is functioning.PM Oli, who is also a chairman of the party, however, has not called the party committees' meetings although both parties and his government are being criticized for poor logistical arrangement to contain the deadly virus and alleged irregularities in the procurement deal.“Yes, I have demanded the party's Secretariat meeting. I have requested both party chairmen for this,” NCP Spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha wrote on Twitter adding, “The party's Secretariat meeting must take place at the earliest, abiding by all health protocols.”Some leaders have demanded action against some ministers for their "suspicious roles" in the controversial procurement deal. They want an immediate meeting of the party's top leaders to discuss the disputed issues and clear air about the alleged cases of irregularities.