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Low and behold

Low and behold


 The National Reconstruction Authority officials say their hands are tied. As the SRBC Pappu JV, better known as Pappu Construction, has bid the lowest amount for the reconstruction of the damaged central bank building at Baluwatar, and since the bid meets all the technical requirements, the infamous company is sure to bag the contract. Of late the construction company has come under withering criticism for inordinate delays in vital infrastructure projects and for shoddy work.


Of 41 bridges that Pappu has committed to build, it has missed the deadlines on 25. Yet it continues to get lucrative government contracts. One reason is that it has friends in high places. The company is owned by Hari Narayan Rauniyar, a federal lawmaker from the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal that is a part of the KP Oli government. Curiously, Rauniyar is in the federal parliament’s development committee that is man­dated to monitor progress of national development works. Parliamentary regulations prohibit MPs with such conflict of interest from serving in its committees. (Two Nepali Congress members of the development committee have similar conflict of interest, and they have predictably come to Rauniyar’s defense.)


The government may make all the noise it likes about its big ambitions for national development, about its crack-down on cartels, about zero tolerance for cor­ruption. But people will have hard time trusting it when even the most egregious violators of the law are being rewarded instead of being harshly punished; when contractors and medical college owners can sit on vital parliamentary bodies and brazenly tweak the rules for personal benefit.


The Oli government is powerful enough to change this. For instance it can alter the public procurement rule that favors the lowest bidder, irrespective of the bidder’s quality of work. In what will be a powerful deterrent, it can also cancel long-delayed works and punish the contractors. No country has prospered on the back of corruption and shoddy work. The longer the government takes to act against these fraudulent contractors and self-serving MPs, the greater will be public disenchantment. They gave the left coalition two-thirds majority with the confidence that the coali­tion would use the ensuing stability to realize its elec­toral agenda of common prosperity—and surely not to further cement corruption and cronyism.