Contractors pay up to 20 pc of total amount in bribes: FCAN official

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GYAN P NEUPANE

KATHMANDU, Aug 6: A representative of contractors who have been working on various development projects has told a parliamentary committee that they have to pay up to 20 percent of their total contract amounts as bribes to top government officials.

Speaking at a meeting of Parliament’s Development Committee on Friday, Deputy General Secretary of the Federation of Contractors Associations of Nepal (FCAN) Bishnu Budhathoki claimed that bribery is the reason  behind the poor state of projects that they build.

“I think I should not have used these sorts of words at this kind of meeting. But today I must make public  the main reason behind the shoddy work done in the development sector,” he said at the parliamentary committee meeting which was jam-packed with dozens of lawmakers, top government officials and representatives of contractors, among others. “For every project, we have to provide up to 20 percent of the total contract amount as commission for top government officials, including even secretaries and ministers.”

The parliamentary committee organized the meeting  at Singha Durbar on Friday to discus the “poor quality of work and delays at infrastructure development projects”.

Budhathoki was responding to queries from lawmakers, who asked the FCAN representatives about the reason for the poor quality of work and the delays in building infrastructure projects across the country.

Budhathoki argued that they had to compromise on the quality of their work as they have to spend huge amounts as bribes.

“At first, contractors have to bag a project through the lowest bidding. Then we are asked to ensure high quality work. Moreover, we have to distribute lots of money for the officials,” he further explained. “These are the major reasons behind the poor quality work at the projects we do.”

Budhathoki, who is also managing director of Gorkha Builders Pvt. Ltd., claimed that FCAN is ready to fight  corrupt officials who demand bribes.

After hearing the views of FCAN representatives, lawmakers and government officials, the parliamentary committee issued a four-point directive to the concerned development partners and government bodies to remedy this state of affairs.

The committee has asked the Prime Minister’s Office to make changes in the provisions of the Public Procurement Regulations as per needs in the changed context and to ensure effective implementation of the Public Procurement Ac-2007. The committee instructed the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport (MoPIT) and FCAN to coordinate more effectively.

Also, the committee has asked government bodies to adopt a carot and stick approach to contractors.

First appeared in Republica

Govt unveils design for new Dharahara

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GYAN P NEUPANE

KATHMANDU, August 2: Sixteen months after the collapse of the historic Dharahara tower in last year’s devastating earthquake, the government has made public a detailed design for a similar tower to be built right in front of the ruins of the origional structure.   

As per a plan to build a new tower similar to Dharahara, the Department of Archaeology (DoA) on Monday made public a detailed design for the new tower to be raised in front of the two century-old collapsed structure.

Cage Consulte Pvt Ltd, which has prepared the design for DoA, proposes to build an 11-storey tower with a total height of 245 feet. The old tower was nine stories.

Bishnu Panthi, an architect at the private company, said, “The new tower looks similar to the old but it will be a modern architectural design. The new structure will have all modern facilities such as a lift, stairways and a two-storey parking space.”

The new structure has two stories underground which will serve as a museum and as an entrance to the tower. And the new design also proposes a mini-theatre with a capacity of 17 seats at the top of the tower.

According to DoA officials, visitors will be shown a short film about the history of Dharahara.  

The new design also includes a fountain at the entrance gate. The building of the Mint Department nearby will be turned into a mint museum and the Central Post Office, which is next to the historic Sundhara (or golden water spout), will be converted into a two-storey underground parking. The cabinet has already decided to relocate those government offices elsewhere.

They also claimed that the new tower can withstand earthquakes of up to 8-point magnitude.

However, the company is not clear about the building materials to be used in the construction of the new tower.

“All the latest construction techniques will be used to make the tower earthquake-resilient,” he told Republica.

Speaking after the presentation, Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) Aananda Prasad Pokharel has informed that the Dharahara will be constructed through the public money.

“Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had announced to build it through the public fund. So far we have raised Rs 200 million from the public and we will re-appeal public for more funds. If we are unable to raise sufficient fund, Nepal Telecom has promised us to provide further economic assistance.”

The DoA had hired the consultant on July 10 for the entire conceptual design and given the deadline for 2 months.

The DoA plans to construct the new Dharahara within 3 years of the beginning of construction and it is estimated that almost Rs 2.95 billion will be required to build the new structure.

“The Dharahara premise will also be expanded in the area of 21267.46 square meters,” Director General of DoA Bhes Narayan Dahal said.

First appeared in Republica

MoGA wants civil servants not returning from abroad punished

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GYAN P NEUPANE

KATHMANDU, Aug 1: The Ministry of General Administration (MoGA) has asked all the ministries to provide details of civil servants who went abroad for study, training or visit purpose under government quota but didn’t return to the country to resume their job.

The ministry has also asked all the ministries to find such employees and take departmental action for not abiding by the laws and their commitment.

Officials at the MoGA said that they have so far received details of around two dozen of civil servants who didn’t return to the country even after completing the leave given to them for study, training, and other purpose.

“As per the Civil Service Act, any civil servant after completing their study period must return to the country and serve at least for three years in the country,” Pradeep Koirala, joint-secretary at the MoGA, told Republica. “But, we have found many civil servants not resuming their office even after completing their study or training period.”

According to him, the concerned ministry takes various types of departmental actions depending on the nature of individual cases.

“Sometimes, we also fine the civil servants with the amount worth the government invests for their travel and study expenses and in some cases we charge them for misusing their public position,” he said.

He also said it is their regular work to ask the concerned ministries to provide the list of their long-time absent officials and to punish them for misusing the government facilities.

“We have been asking the concerned ministries since many years for the list. The concerned ministries are responsible for taking action,” he informed.

“So far we have received the list of 25 civil servants who misused the facilities given to them,” he added.

However, spokeswoman and joint-secretary of MoGA Nita Pokharel said that ministry has not received the final number of the civil servants who were absent even after completing their abroad stay for the purpose approved by their office.

“We are demanding the list from the concerned ministries but we haven’t received the final data yet,” she said.

First appeared in Republica

Land pooling for outer ring road, housing starts

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GYAN P NEUPANE

KATHMANDU, July 25: The Kathmandu Valley Development Authority (KVDA) has finally initiated the land pooling and land development process for the outer ring road project in the Kathmandu Valley. The project had remained in limbo for the past 11 years.
 
The KVDA has already started necessary administrative process to carry out the land pooling and land development process in Satungal and Chobhar areas of Kathmandu district in the first phase. The KVDA has already issued a 35-day notice asking the locals to lodge complaints if they have any regarding the authority’s plan to initiate the land pooling process.  

“We have received nine complaints so far from the locals. Though the total length of the outer ring road is 73 kilometers, we will be working in a 6.1 km stretch in the first phase,” said Bhaikaji Tiwari, chief commissioner of the KVDA.

The 73-kilometer outer ring road, which will be 50 meters wide, will cover at least 10 percent area of the Kathmandu Valley. KVDA plans to develop settlements on either side of the outer ring road.  

He said that the project was delayed for a long time due to protests by locals. “But this time, the project is set to move ahead as the locals have committed their support,” he said.
 
Tiwari informed that they will implement the project after clearing the misunderstandings among the locals about the project. “We plan to complete the construction of 6.1 kilometer stretch in two-and-a-half years. We have allocated Rs 50 million for the project the current fiscal year,” he said.

KVDA will acquire 250 meters on either side from mid-point of the road and develop the area and hand the land plots over to the landowners.

“The road will connect the rural area of the Valley through a single road,” he informed. “It will also connect the rural areas to inner areas of the Valley.”

Dhurba Prasad Sapkota, section officer at KVDA, said, “Earlier, in some other land pooling projects, the KVDA had charged some fees to the landowners but the outer ring road project will not charge such fee to the landowners.”

Meanwhile, Sailaj Nepal, one of the land owners in Satungal area and secretary of a local consumer group, said the project should not demolish the houses and other structures under the pretext of road development and land pooling.

First appeared in Republica

CCWB rescues 200 street children

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GYAN P NEUPANE

KATHMANDU, July 23: As part of the government’s plan to rescue and rehabilitate street children, the Central Child Welfare Board (CCWB) has so far rescued 200 children languishing in various streets of the Kathmandu valley this year.

Since May, the CCWB has been working to rescue the street children from the streets and working to resettle them in a safe home environment.
 
“We are working to rescue street children and rehabilitate them so that they also can lead a normal life,” said Tarak Dhital, executive director at the CCWB. “Many children have been staying on the streets and some of them are into drug addictions. So, our move is to assist them in leading a normal life. ”

According to him, of the total 200 children, 11 were into drugs and therefore have been admitted in rehabilitation centers and other 25 children have been returned to their families. Similarly, the remaining children have been handed over to drop-in-centers for counseling, education and other livelihood trainings.

A study carried out by the CCWB two-year earlier has shown that there are over 4,000 street children across the country and over 600 children inside the Kathmandu valley which includes those who are staying in shelters after being rescued from the streets.

“Before we launched the program, we had estimated that only 300 street children might be living in streets of Kathmandu Valley. But we have already rescued 200 street children within three months. It indicates there are hundreds of other street children in the valley,” he added.

The CCWB had developed the Street Children Operational Guideline, 2072 to work for the street children, about a year ago. The guideline has allowed to rescue children from the road and also to integrate them with their families and society. The guidelines also stresses on assisting them in giving up on drugs, if they are into it.

The guideline has envisioned methodologies to figure out factors that led them to reside on the streets. Such findings, it claims, will help introduce measures for assisting children from being homeless in the days ahead.

Following the management plan, the CCWB has banned from distributing foods, clothes and treatment to street children without rehabilitating them. “Helping the street children by providing their needs on the street is a major factor that prolongs their stay on the street. That’s why we restricted various organizations from distributing goods to street children and organizing various activities for them,” said Dhital.

First appeared in Republica

Govt hikes driving license fee

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GYAN P NEUPANE

KATHMANDU, July 19: The government has increased the fee for receiving new license for all categories of vehicles and also for their renewal, effective from Sunday.

The Department of Transport Management (DoTM) took this decision revising its previous fee structure that was introduced eleven years ago. A recent cabinet meeting endorsed the department’s decision.

According to Basanta Adhikari, spokesman at the department, the fee structures for issuing new license as well as renewal and application fee have been hiked and have already come into effect since Sunday.

The fee for issuing new license and renewing license for two-wheeler used to be Rs 700, but has now been hiked to Rs 1,500.

For light vehicles such as cars, the government has increased the fee to get new license and renew license to Rs 2,000 from Rs 1,000.

As per the new rules, the drivers of mini-bus and mini-truck should now pay Rs 2,500 separately for getting new license and to renew the old ones.

Earlier, they had to pay Rs 1,500. Similarly, the drivers of heavy vehicles now need to pay Rs 3,000 instead of the earlier fee of Rs 2,000.

Officials at the DoTM also informed that the government has also hiked the application fee to Rs 500 from Rs 200.

Chek Prasad Upreti, an official at the Bagmati Zonal Transport Management Office, argued that the decision was taken as it had been a decade since the previous fee structure was introduced. The Bagmati Zonal office of the department is the only office that has been distributing smart driving license since December 2015.

Government allows 1500 quake-affected people to operate new taxis in Kathmandu
The government has decided open registration for 1,500 new taxis for quake affected people from 11 districts worst-hit by the devastating earthquakes of last year. The new taxis will be registered in Bagmati Zone, where registration for new taxis isn’t allowed for general people.

The DoTM has decided to collect applications from July 20 to August 18 for the purpose. DoTM Spokesperson Basanta Adhikari informed that they will accept applications only for 1,500 new taxis and the DoTM will select quake-affected people based on their identity cards.

“We are expecting that the number of the applicants will be almost 25,000 but we will only distribute to 1,500 people through lucky draw,” he said, adding that the victims will be able to run their taxi inside the Kathmandu Valley.

He made it clear that the government support for the quake-affected people is only to register the taxis but not to provide any financial support for the purpose. Few years back, the government had registered 1,850 new taxis in the Kathmandu Valley.

According to him, 7,500 taxis are now operating in Bagmati Zone.

First appeared in Republica