Nepal sidelines Indian company to give highway contract to dubious Chinese firm

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Eyebrows are raised in Kathmandu over the Nepal Army’s award of the contract for the sixth batch of the Kathmandu-Terai Fast Track (KTFT) road project to a controversial Chinese firm that had previously been rejected for the work because it lacked the technical expertise to complete the project. The contract was awarded to China First Highway Engineering Company, days before the November 20 general election.

Afcons Infrastructure India was the only Indian company to be able to submit its offer in such a short time. We learn that the Indian authorities are now considering raising the issue with Nepali Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba.

The contract was awarded after the contractor filed a formal complaint with the Public Procurement Oversight Office (PPMO), which comes under the administrative control of the Nepalese Prime Minister’s Office.

Previously, the Nepal Army had rejected the offer of the technical proposal from the same company. However, following the complaint, the company was included in the bidding process.

The abrupt nature of the bidding process also came to the fore.

The Nepal Army has given bidders 15 days to make arrangements to attend the financial bid which was to be held on September 16. However, the army, through an email sent on September 15, informed that the opening of the financial offer was postponed until further notice. Subsequently, the military sent a revised financial offer opening letter on November 6, in which it included the name of the Chinese company. The mail was sent at 5 p.m. The financial tender was opened on November 7 at 1:00 p.m. and China First Highway Engineering was declared the lowest bidder.

“A scenario has been created to locate this Chinese company at the very last moment so that Afcons India does not get the project under the international tender,” a person with direct knowledge told India Narrative. .

Navita Srikant, who previously advised the government of Nepal on governance and anti-corruption, said: “National pride projects in Nepal are generally well designed with adequate safeguards. After all, it is about Nepal’s reputation and an ecosystem of fairness, transparency and accountability. Public procurement systems have been strengthened in recent years under the direct supervision of the Prime Minister’s office. However, in the case of KTFT-Package 06, the allegations are quite serious but I hope the Deuba government will not tolerate such a level of disregard for standards.

That’s not all.

Bikas Pokharel, who served as the project manager of the mega project, was unceremoniously transferred while the bidding process was underway. Kamal Bikram Shah, who replaced Pokharel, finally signed the Letter of Intent (LoI) to the Chinese company.

Khabarhub.com news agency said in a report that the tender to the Chinese company, which was not even technically competent, was awarded on the basis of influence or pressure.

The construction of the Kathmandu-Tarai highway, touted as a symbol of national pride, was launched in 2017. While the deadline was to complete the projects in four years, the construction work has lagged. The new deadline is July 2024.

Srikant added that ahead of the general election, zero tolerance for corruption is what a voter and a foreign investor would want to see. “We hope to see corrective action to award the contract in accordance with the process,” she added.

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