September 28, 2018 04:10 AM NPT
By: Arjun Oli
Photo: Republica Files
NEPALGUNJ, Sept 28: Both the Ministry of Irrigation and the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) have formed separate probe committees to investigate into the irregularities in the multi-billion rupees Sikta Irrigation Project. It has already been a month and a half since the two committees returned to Kathmandu after conducting their investigation at the project site. But their investigations are nowhere near conclusion.
Probe committee of CIAA was set out to investigate into the corruption in the project while the ministry was assigned to inspect the quality of the construction work. The canal had collapsed twice during quality testing. As the two committees have not made public their findings, the locals and stakeholders have expressed serious concerns over the delay.
“I wonder what might have happened to the investigations of the committees,” said Krishna Prasad Shrestha, coordinator of the Citizens Stakeholders Committee for Development, a group formed by locals. “Maybe they couldn't find anything; maybe they couldn't do proper investigations."
He demanded that all those involved in wrongdoing in the project be booked and punished.
Former lawmaker Ashok Rokaya, who is a local of Raptisonari Rural Municipality-9 of Banke district, said the probe committees seem clueless. “It has been a long time since the two committees started their investigations. But the dillydallying in making public their findings shows that something is fishy. They might be trying to protect the culprits by delaying the investigations," he said.
The locals and stakeholders have accused the project's contractor CTC Kalika JV of using substandard materials in canal construction.
Around 35 kilometers out of the total 45.25-kilometer length of the canal in Agaiya is in dilapidated state. The locals have alleged that the contractor is not amenable to action because he is well connected.
Responding to such concerns, CIAA and the ministry officials said they would conclude the investigation at any cost. Joint Secretary Sushil Chandra Tiwari of the ministry, who is also a coordinator for its probe committee, said the investigation is taking longer than expected because they are looking into all minute details.
“We have to inspect everything very carefully. Examinations of soil, relevant documents and other things are taking a lot of time,” he said.
CIAA spokesman Rameshwar Dangal also assured that they are doing their best to speed up and conclude the investigation. “The investigation will conclude very soon,” he said.
Construction of the canal had started around 12 years ago and Rs 14.7 billion has been spent in the project so far. The total estimated cost of the project was around Rs 25 billion. But the recent collapse of the canal at various sections means more funds will be needed.