Controversial Chinese buses in town, now for the spare parts

144 similar buses were recently recalled in China over safety concerns

After driving through a series of allegations of procurement violations and unfair tendering practices 15 ‘Golden Dragon’ Chinese buses have finally made it to Thimphu.

However, coming out of one controversy the Bhutan Post buses are headed for another controversy over questions and doubts by Thimphu workshops and other vehicle dealers on the availability of spare parts and maintenance issues.

In addition the Chinese government’s quality watchdog ‘General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ)’ on August 12, 2012 ordered the recall of 144 Golden Dragon buses in China on safety grounds.

The recall was announced due to concerns that the single leg seat design may not be strong enough to withstand rough driving conditions. There are worries that, in the event of a crash or similar extreme situation, the seats may become unbuckled from the floor of the bus. Furthermore, the seats are made a stiff plastic that may shatter on impact, posing a further safety risk to passengers.

The outer physical look of the buses look modern and catchy but what is left to see is how it will perform on Bhutanese roads.

An earlier Chinese bus suffered from break failure problems and went out of control in the Hong Kong market area damaging 13 other vehicles.

Proprietor of the Ganjung, Ugyen Tenzin said,”We have identified a workshop in Thimphu to do the entire repair and the servicing works for the four Chinese buses I’ve supplied”, he also said that his company has trained mechanics to deal with these buses.

 

Meanwhile Global traders couldn’t be contacted. However Bhutan Postal Corporation Limited (BPCL) transport officer, said that there is an agreement between BPCL and the two suppliers regarding the servicing works and providing spare parts should the buses break down in the future.

However, some workshop owners in Thimphu feel that Thimphu workshops will not be able to service the fleet of largely unknown Chinese buses with the added problem that there are no readily available spare parts.

Workshop owner Prahlad said,” “Identifying only a single workshop or spare parts supplier won’t be enough as buses which are run daily will need regular servicing at least three times a week if the quality of the bus is to be maintained.”

Another workshop staff in Olakha Maina said, “Most workshops don’t know how to repair Chinese buses and the most we can do are only minor services like mobil change etc.”

According to local workshops and car dealers the current operational city buses are either TATA or Eicher buses which are Indian products for which spare parts easily available.

Some of the leading or the biggest spare parts supplier in the country like the State Trading Corporation of Bhutan Limited (STCBL) also does not deal with Chinese products.

With workshops out of the option for any major repairs even the larger servicing companies like Samden vehicles, STCBL, Hyundai motors and Dejung Honda, all say they are not allowed to deal with any other brand other than theirs when it comes to servicing and supplying spare parts.

These agencies also confirmed that they do not have mechanics that are aware of the Chinese buses like the Golden dragon.  “We train our mechanics to handle our own products and that is TATA,” the Samden Vehicles Managing Director said.

TATA motors according to its regional Bhutan and Nepal manager Vinay wrote that Tata has a policy which maintains a minimum stock of spare parts for all the models in the Bhutanese market with special tools and highly trained personnel. Similarly other vehicle agencies also claim to have highly trained personals in their specific brands to deal with all sorts of malfunctions in their products.

A private transport company owner in Thimphu said the break down of buses are inevitable but it can get worse if it happens to a public transport bus which runs in the city every day.

With nearly all workshops in Thimphu unused to Chinese buses major problems are expected not only to repair the buses but also in getting spare parts.

Even companies like the TATA and Hyundai automobiles which are very common in the country take months to acquire certain spare parts damaged due to accidents.

“ Requirement of spare parts are not always certain since accidents can happen any time to any part of the automobile so every part can’t be kept ready all the time,” the Managing Director of the Samden Vehicles Kouenleg Gyeltshen said. He said that even the head offices can’t keep all the parts of an automobile in spare so basically it takes two to three months to acquire some spare parts.

According to an official at the STCBL, even the TATA and the Toyota vehicles which good networks are not very easy to manage when it comes to supplying spare parts. She said that the requirements of spare parts are uncertain so one cannot expect which part will be demanded.

Most workshops and car dealers that the paper talked to say that it will doubly hard if not harder for the Chinese buses to get spare parts given their different technology, limited numbers and distance from the suppliers.

However, owner of Ganjung disagrees with the assessment. “This is not true. I cannot comment for Global Traders but Ganjung has stocked up on spare parts. In fact when my Tata Hiluxes steering box got spoilt they did not have the spare parts in Bhutan at the time.”

A fleet of the Chinese buses was launched in Changlimithang on Wednesday in a small event attended by several RSTA officials, Thromde officials and officials from the traffic division as well. BPCL said that the buses will start operating in about two days’ time after its registration with the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA).

Earlier in June 2012, BPCL in a Nu 44.6 mn tender had awarded 11 large buses worth Nu 35.2mn to Global Traders while another company Ganjung got the order for 4 medium sized buses worth Nu 9.4mn.

MD of Samdhen Vehicles, Kouenleg Gyeltshen had then said that BPCL had violated tender norms by changing tender requirements after opening the bid to deprive him, who was the lowest bidder and met all tender specifications. Samdhen Vehicles total bid was cheaper by Nu 12.4mn

BPCL denied violation of rules but procurement rules of the Public Procurement and Policy Division (PPPD) under the MoF says that no changes can be made after opening a tender.

The controversial selection of Global Traders by Bhutan Post brought about much discussion on online forums and the social media as the company is owned by the son-in-law of the Prime Minister. The person representing Global Traders at the bid was the son-in-law of the MoIC minister Lyonpo Nandalal Rai. Bhutan Post comes under the MoIC ministry.

About Yeshey Tshewang

17 comments

  1. Anjoiii sounds like cute corruption. But until proven….lets not make unnecessary noise. Lets not get used to, too.. of you know…what..

  2. See,
    another corruption..Everywhere JYT is involved. I think its high time that the concerned agencies take action againts the people who breed corruption. Or else people should raise their voice againgts such practices. Bhutan cant bear to have a corrupt future. If that is the example set by the leaders of a newly democratized Bhutan, then the future look very bleak. So think twice before you cast your vote for the upcoming election..

  3. Glorified Clerk

    We have got used to everything Indian so far. Slowly we will also get used to Chinese things. So, not a big deal. “High class” people in Bhutan use products from the US and Europe. We ordinary Bhutanese will have to be happy with Indian and Chinese products.

    • ‘“High class” people in Bhutan use products from the US and Europe.’ – LOL …don’t you know all those supposedly American/European products are also manufactured in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines, and Japan??

    • Well wat if these buses breaks down..?..and wat if people are left stranded?..coz after the introduction of these buses the old ones’ are inevitably going to run outta business and wat if this coincides with the break down of chinese buses..These public transportation should neccessarly be from India but they should at least have proper maintaining centers or work shops wel established in the country or atleast in Thimphu..

  4. Buses are very beautiful, spacious and should be far far safer than those ugly Indian buses. Minus the corruption (if any) i am very pleased with the new entry of Chinese buses. All city buses should be replaced with such buses. Let Thimphu look like a beautiful city for once!

  5. can this paper not write anything besides a story to always attack the PM.  the lengths TL will go to is pathetic and the credibility of this paper is  becoming highly questionable. 

    is there a problem or are you anticipating and hoping for problems to arise in the future. would really appreciate it if this paper could leave personal agendas out and become more professional.

  6. don’t talk rubbish about ‘high class people’  or things like that. The issue is about corruption. First of all, the government has a standing position about any business that has no set up. They are known as brief case businesses and the govt actively excludes them from participating in tenders. 
    Even printers are supposed to have a press in Bhutan. All businesses big or small must have some relevant set up. Here we have a massive investment in buses and the winners, both of them, don’t even have a third class mechanic working for them. 

    Secondly, BBS’s report only gave 15m of airtime to the Bhutan Post MD to allow him to deny the corruption, but nobody from the complaining companies. Enough time has passed for the RAA to at least give their view on whether on the surface it looks like a corruption case. Otherwise all we hear is the MD denying everything on BBS.

    It does not help to generate any confidence in the integrity of our government officials.

  7. JYT will open workshop after 2013 elections.

  8. Dear TL
    I dont see any reason to link controversial chinese buses and PM until it is proven.Your alway trying to link whatever done and said to our PM.I think you need to get some training on how to come up with balance news otherwise you enjoy all the freedom to write whatever comes to your mind without proper research.

  9. Such reports are necessary to make people like Rinchen above happy, otherwise it serves no other purpose.

  10. I am just happy that The Bhutanese dare speak what it think. Freedom of speech is proliferating in Bhutan with short span of less than five years. But I dont like the way this paper discriminate and plan personal attacks against DPT. Why should they mention that representative of Global trader is son in law of Lyonpo Nandalal? I dont find any valid point doing so. Why dont TB try professional Journalism? That would be much better…… We dont want Bhutan decide wrong thing such this newspaper is so vocal. There is vast difference between being famous and being popular.

    • Monu you seem particuraly disturbed that TB named Lyonpo Nandalal’s son in law’s name. Are you suggesting that no names be named. Your first line appreciates media freedom and then you contradict yourself saying that paper should not have named names. Your short paragraph says these few things about you 
      1) You are a confused person 2)You are DPT fanatic supporter  3) You are related or friendly with Nandu’s family  4) You don’t have any f**** idea what you are talking abot 5) Most importantly you are a f**** idiot

    • well i think the link is a real one. It just so happens both partners of Global Traders are linked to the top brass of the DPT and they are getting unyielding support from the tender committee.

      In our system there is no transparency and no guilty conscience. How many calls did the global trader people call up the BP MD? That is illegal but nobody can control it in Bhutan. 

      Why are RAA and ACC keeping so quiet? 

      These are all related to the invisible links.

  11. the purpose of out “papers” should be to inform and provide the correct information to  the public NOT disinform and provide incorrect distorted information. we rely on our “papers” to give us the right info without any political agendas. is that too much to ask?

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