KATHMANDU, Jan 22: Nepal Army has started procurement of different civil works, including earth cutting and permanent structures, for the Kathmandu Tarai Expressway without preparing Detailed Project Report (DPR) - a prerequisite for any development work.
The tender process of National Competitive Biddings (NCB) is for as many as 20 packages. Most of the packages include works of roadway excavation, embankment construction, and composite soil reinforcement system and cross drainage structure, according to tender notices published two weeks ago.
Nepal Army, which was entrusted the work of developing the 76-kilometer expressway project by the government in June last year, has already entered into the process of opening financial proposals of the technically eligible contractors in some packages.
An estimated cost of the contracts varies between Rs 250 million and Rs 1.25 billion, according to the tender notices. The work of such contract packages will be completed within next nine months, according to the Nepal Army.
An engineer with the Department of Roads (DoR) said starting work on such a mega project without DPR is like building a house without preparing design“ "The mega project demands proper planning, due process as well as proper scheduling. It can be charted out in the DPR only”," the engineer, who requested anonymity, said.
Such haphazard way of awarding contracts may lead to a waste of resources in case of DPR changes road alignment.
The mega project is being built to cut travel distance between Kathmandu and Tarai to about an hour.
A retired official of the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport said that DPR is a must while starting project of this scale“ "The decision to award contracts for work without preparing the DPR may inflict unexpected loss on the government. This is not the way to carry out project of this scale and type. A proper detailed design must be first prepared before starting works in the field”," the official added
A total of Rs 10.14 billion has been allocated for this project in the current fiscal year.
At a press meet organized last week to brief media persons about the progress made by the project so far, Nepal Army had stated that it won't purchase DPR prepared by an Indian consortium led by IL & FS, saying the report has technical shortcomings. The army also said that the consortium was demanding an exorbitant fee.
Following a government decision to award the expressway project to the army, the Indian consulting firm had said that the army has to purchase its DPR. A cabinet meeting held on October 13, 2017, asked the Nepal Army's Directive Committee to decide whether to purchase the DPR from the Indian firm and negotiate a price.
Talking to Republica, Nepal Army Spokesperson Gokul Bhandari said that the alignment will not be changed as the DPR is being made as per the Asian Development Bank's feasibility study carried out in 2008“ "There might be some changes of alignments in the tunnels and other structures. But these changes will be minor”," claimed Bhandari.
The track of the project was also opened by the Nepal Army. It's spending on track opening work had raised suspicions of corruption, prompting Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to look into the matter. The parliamentary committee concluded there were anomalies in its works.
Nepal Army has also said that army personnel will be used only for minor works. It also said that the army will go for international competitive biddings (IBCs) only for works like building tunnels and high-tech bridges which cannot be completed through NCBs. Nepal Army intends to complete such works via engineering procurement and contract (EPC) model.