During the 6th Meet-the-Press organized by Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT), the Opposition Member of Parliament, Yeshey Zimba, said that the government must be held accountable for the cancellation of construction contract for the Dagapela to Lhamoizingkha road that has resulted in wastage of government money and deprivation of timely benefit to the people of Dagana.
The 81km road construction project was divided into three packages and tendered out for international competitive bidding (ICB) and awarded in September 2014, with km ranging from 20 to 31 and amount of bid ranging from Nu 354.88m to Nu 415m to three bidders; Kalikha Construction, Tundi construction and Gaseb- SPML joint venture.
However, a complaint was filed to ACC after a month of contract being awarded in October 2014. One of the bidders, Jaiprakash Associates, complained that the award was unfair since it was the lowest bidder. ACC then provided two options for the government, either to re-evaluate the tender or revoke the contract and retender, and the retendering was chosen.
Yeshey Zimba said, “The government, for whatever reasons, took the easy way out and cancelled the contract package B and C with no regard causing delay in the works and subsequent cost escalation which would have serious impact on the value of money.”
He said, “Road is vital to development of the country and Dagana had been recognized as one of the most underdeveloped dzongkhags, mainly due to connectivity problems.” He further added, “Considering this reason, the government had given high priority to construction and improvement of motor roads during the 10th plan among which one of the most important road project was the Dagapela to Lhamoizingkha Highway.”
Presently, the case is before an arbitration committee as required by the contract agreement. In the meantime, the Supreme Court has ordered the government to pay Gaseb-SPML sum of Nu 150m by July 10, pending the arbitration committee decision.
He said, “While cancelling the contract the government conveniently forgot about the inevitable cost escalation and benefits forgone by the people.” Adding that the main reason for the ACC recommendation was that the government had not made any attempt to gain better value for money, by a more thorough evaluation, given that the bid submitted by the lowest bidder was Nu 21m lower.
The contract for the third package was not cancelled and work is in progress. The government offered compensation of Nu 35m to Tundi and 40m to Gaseb-SPML. Ms Tundi accepted the compensation. Gaseb-SPML, however, refused to accept the compensation and instead took the ministry to court for the contravention of the terms of contract agreement and illegally cancelling the contract.
“In order to save Nu 21 million, the government stands to lose a minimum of Nu 125 million,” Yeshey Zimba pointed out.
He added “The completion of the road would be delayed by at least three years, given that one and half years has already been lost, depriving the people of Dagana of the benefits of the good connectivity, remaining cut off from the dzongkhag head office for many more years.”
He further added that the cancellation of the contract, well after work had commenced and at the intervention of ACC, would most certainly cast doubts in the minds of donors regarding prevalence of corruption in Bhutan.
“This would have serious impact on future aid to Bhutan besides damaging the country’s otherwise clean image.”
The Opposition Party claimed that the government be held accountable for blunder. The Opposition further added, “The most sensible thing would have been to re-evaluate the bids and come to a rational decision, saving time and money for the country.”
The government made it clear that the reason for the cancellation of the contract was on the order of ACC. The project coordinator, MoWH, Pema Thinley, said, “The tendering process has no prevalence of corruption and is very transparent.”
He said that unlike the national bidding process, the Dagapela- Lhamozingkha project was done in a different manner since it is an International Competitive Bidding, where the pass and fail system was used to evaluate the bidders which was thoroughly done. “Since the funding was 50-50 between the government and donor so even after completing, we have send our evaluation report to our donor for the rectification where it was marked well evaluated.”
He said that the process was very transparent and there is no room for mistake in the evaluation process. “We still believe that we have taken the right decision which is the best.”