KATHMANDU, April 17: Although the government had decided to blacklist the Omni Business Corporate International Private Limited, officials have been dilly-dallying to implement the decision amid alleged pressure from “people” at the Office of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers (OPMCM).
The Department of Health Service (DHS) under the Ministry of Health and Population had awarded a Rs 1.25 billion worth contract to Omni to supply various medical equipment needed to fight against covid19. But the company has not even been registered with the Department of Commerce.
According to sources at DHS, senior officials at the OPMCM are currently pressuring the officials concerned to not blacklist Omni despite its earlier decision. The government had also decided to seize Omni’s Rs 50 million submitted as a deposit.
The DHS had earlier written to the Public Procurements Monitoring Office (PPMO) to put the Omni Business Incorporate in the black list. But the PPMO, that falls directly under the jurisdiction of OPMCM, is dilly-dallying to take decisions to this effect ,apparently under pressure from senior officials within the OPMCM, sources familiar with the development said.
Addressing a press conference held at the Health Ministry on April 1, Director General of DHS Mahendra Shrestha had announced that they had decided to scrap the deal reached with the company and blacklist the entity. The DHS had written to the PPMO to implement the decision.
In an apparent bid to foil the decision under political pressure, the PPMO had sought additional documents to expedite the process. Although the DHS has already sent the additional documents, the PPMO has not initiated to blacklist Omni.
Sources familiar with the development claimed that collusion among Chief Secretary Lok Darshan Regmi, Prime Minister's Chief Advisor Bishnu Rimal and those belonging to the Omni Business Corporate is at play behind this delay. The PPMO falls under the direct jurisdiction of the OPMCM and the chief secretary.
Sources said the OPMCM is exerting pressure to not blacklist the company as it would automatically disqualify the company to bid for government contracts in future. The move could also potentially raise questions about several other multi-billion-rupee contracts the company was able to secure in the past few years.
DHS Director General Shrestha argued that they decided to scrap the deal with the Omni as it was able to bring only 10 percent of the medical supplies it was supposed to bring in the first lot. Stating that the company was supposed to supply remaining medical items in the second lot on April 2, officials have started arguing that the company should not be blacklisted as the deal itself was scrapped only on April 1.
Under Secretary (Law) at the PPMO Rajesh Thapa, however, claimed that the process has taken a long time as such decision requires completing several legal formalities. He said that although they have already received additional documents from the DHS, the process may still take time as they need to provide time for Omni to furnish clarification.
"If we decide to blacklist Omni without due process, the company may go to the court. So we are working to complete the legal processes. No decision has been made to blacklist the company," Thapa said.