ACC to look into very high road widening estimate in Lhuntse

The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) will be looking to an extraordinarily high Nu 167.20 mn estimate for a 2.5 km road widening project in Phaling Thromde next to the Lhuentse Dzong.

According to a source the ACC had done a review of the issue and it had decided to gather additional information.

The ACC decision to take a closer look at the project comes after a 27th April 2019 investigative story in The Bhutanese questioning the high estimate and also some unusual tender scoring system.

This case is unique in that the tender evaluation is still going on at the Dzongkhag tender level committee and so some remedial action can be taken before any loss is incurred.

An anonymous letter to The Bhutanese, ACC and the RAA alleged an abnormally high estimate of Nu 167.20 mn for a 2.5 km road widening and permanent works in Phaling Thromde under Lhuentse Dzongkhag.

If broken down, the cost estimate comes down to Nu 66.88 mn per km for the road widening and permanent works making it an unusually expensive road widening project.

The letter also questioned certain certain tender provisions which it alleges have been put in to favour a bidder.

The Bhutanese found that, by comparison, the biggest road widening project in the form of the National East-West Highway comes to an average of Nu 25 mn per km. This cost involves permanent works like drain, culverts and road protection walls. Not only that, the east-west national highway was bigger in size and used the more expensive Dense Bituminous Macadam (DBM) blacktop.

The Lhuntse dzongkhag engineer claimed that the works also included a one-meter walking footpath, storm water drain, man hole cover and electric lights on one side of the 2.5 km road. The storm water drain would be only for around 500 meters in the town area.

With these additional urban works The Bhutanese now did a cost comparison between the Lhuentse Dzongkhag’s pavement, drain and lights for Phaling Thromde with that of Thimphu Thromde.

Even taking into account the financial figures of Thimphu’s Thromde’s bigger two-meter walking path with storm drain and service duct and street lights it comes to around Nu 10.36 mn per km.

So if the bigger east-west highway cost and the Thimphu Thromde’s bigger projects cost is combined the per km project cost should not be more than Nu 35.36 mn per km instead of Nu 66.88 mn.

The 2.5 km road-widening cost of Lhuentse Dzongkhag was even more than the cost of an absolutely new road under construction near Phuentsholing Thromde. The bigger and new Phuentsholing Thromde road funded by Asian Development Bank and of international standards is Nu 33.33 mn per km (minus the cost of bridges which are not there in the Lhuentse project.)

The project tender decided to give zero points in scoring for hired equipment when most contractors in Bhutan use hired equipment and it also demanded a high level of technical manpower of three different type of engineers for the 2.5 km project.

While the tender document was uploaded on the e-procurement website the advertisement for it was given as an extract for broadcast on BBS for only one day according to engineer Karma.

The advertisement for such a large project was not given in any of the print media where normally contractors can look at the tender in more detail.

The Minister for Works and Human Settlement Lyonpo Dorji Tshering said that the Dzongkhag level tender committee has full oversight on the issue and it is not being dealt by the ministry.

The Lhuentse Dzongkhag tender committee, meanwhile, is still evaluating the tender.

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