Shailung Construction evades govt blacklist with ‘Dahal’s backing’

Published On: September 14, 2019 08:18 AM NPT By: Himal Lamsal

KATHMANDU, Sept 14: Shailung Construction, which has been securing major construction contracts through unusually low bids has been able to avoid government blacklist even as most of the projects it has won are left incomplete for years.

For instance, the Shailung-Aravali Infrapower JV some five years ago had secured the contract to build a 15-kilometer long Bhatkepati-Nagarkot road while bidding 40 percent less than the estimated cost. 

Although the road project was supposed to be completed within two years, Shailung Construction has not been able to complete even 60 percent of the work even six years after it bagged the contract.  The company won the contract for Rs 279 million — some 40 percent less than the cost estimated by the government. 

Instead of putting the Company in the blacklist, the Bhaktapur-Nagarkot-Sipaghat-Balkhu-Dakchhinkali Road Project has expedited the process to further extend the tenure of the contract. 

An engineer belonging to the Road Project, Sarala Neupane, said they have made a recommendation to the Department of Roads for one-year extension as per the request made in line with the Public Procurement Regulation (Eighth Amendment).

“The Eighth Amendment to the Regulation has allows one-year extension. We have made the recommendation in line with the same provision of the Regulation,” she said.

Neupane claimed that they have been imposing penalty against Shailung JV for failing to complete their projects within the stipulated deadline. “We have been imposing penalty on the company for failing to complete the construction work on time. The construction company has so far paid Rs 700,000 in fines,” she said.

Although the Public Procurement Act 2063 BS has a provision to blacklist any construction company that works against professional ethics, the Department of Roads is preparing to extend the deadline for the fourth time for Shailung-Aravali Infrapower JV apparently due to a strong backing of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal.

The proprietor of Shailung Construction Company Sharada Adhikari has been able to avoid government blacklisting due to his “good nexus” with NCP Chairman Dahal, who now lives in a house provided to him by Adhikari in Khumaltar, Lalitpur. 

Although the Department of Roads has already initiated the process to put similar defaulter contractors including Pappu Construction and Raman Construction in the blacklist, officials say Adhikari has been able to avoid such action because of the strong backing from Chairman Dahal.

Senior officials at the Department of Road privately admit that they have not been able to initiate any action against Adhikari even though his company has defaulted on nearly a dozen major projects so far. 

“Contractors bag most of the construction projects with political backing. How do we take action against such companies when they are protected by top leaders of major political parties?” asked a senior official at the Department, asking not to be named. The political masters often transfer them to some rural areas when they try to take action against such companies, they say. 

Director at Public Procurement Monitoring Office Keshav Prasai said the project chief can recommend the Department to put any defaulting company in the blacklist based on the evaluation of the progress made in their work. “Recommendation can be made to put any company in the blacklist if they are found acting against the spirit of their contract. The process to keep them in the blacklist is expedited after studying the recommendation made by the project chief concerned,” he said.

Officials, however, said that any such recommendation made by a project chief are hardly taken into consideration if the contractor happens to be someone close to influential political leaders. The reason why Shailung Construction has not been blacklisted yet is a testimony to this fact, they say. 

However, Shailung Construction claims that the obstruction caused by government bodies is to be blamed for the delay in the project completion as they have not been able to clear the sites and provide compensation to the victims on time. 

“We do not get any contract just because NCP chairman lives in the house provided by its owner. We were able to bag contract while bidding 30 to 40 percent amount less than the cost estimated by the government,” said Director of the construction company Ramesh Subedi. 

Subedi said that there is no role of Chairman Dahal in securing the contracts their company has received. Shailung Construction is currently working in various 11 road projects. 

Some of the major road projects bagged by Shailung Construction are Balaju-Ranipauwa Road, Dholahiti-Saraswati Kunda Road, Kapan-Akashdhara Road, Aakashdhara- Baluwakhani Road, 9.1 kilometer stretch of Tripureshwar-Kalanki-Nagdhunga Road etc. All these projects worth several billions of rupees have failed to see any tangible progress even after several years. 

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