Indifferent Ministry and careless contractors mess up Nu 30 mn renovation of Pangrizampa Monastery

1)A renovated structure within the premises, 2) Walls and electrical wiring under repair, 3)Ceiling repairs underway at one of the floors,4) A renovated structure waiting to be painted
1)A renovated structure within the premises, 2) Walls and electrical wiring under repair, 3)Ceiling repairs underway at one of the floors,4) A renovated structure waiting to be painted

Monks at the monastery said the infrastructure started falling apart within a few months’ time

Compassion and endurance may have been preached by the Buddha, but contractors through a shoddily-renovated monastery have tested these qualities of resident monks at the historically and culturally significant Pangrizampa monastery in Thimphu.

And what is worse is that the monastery blames the government and the contractors for using up around Nu 30 mn of its own funds donated by an Austrian tourist for a job which the monastery feels could have been done in a much better way for a much lesser amount.

The Monastery had initially planned to do a much better job itself by using the funds given by the devotee but the government stepped in the form of the Home Ministry which insisted that the works had to be done and tendered through the ministry. This was even though the monastery was being offered private funds by the Austrian benefactor.

In the meantime the result is that monks at the Pangrizampa monastery have endured a lot of stress and anxiety for more than a year due to deteriorating conditions of their classrooms, hostels and other infrastructure. The entire infrastructure which developed by local contractors hired by the government did not hold for even a year, and the residents of the monastery had to toil to renovate the entire buildings alongside with their monastic routines.

While the construction ended in 2008, the entire infrastructure had to be mended even before the year ended. Starting from electrical wirings and water pipes to many major renovations, the monastery had to shed capital from their own budget and also help with manual labor.

Many monks at the monastery said “it was like re-constructing everything and we are really disheartened by the job done by the builders.”

The donated fund of about Nu 30mn was routed through the government.

The construction work for a hostel, a classroom block, kitchen, bathrooms and principal’s block among others was awarded by the Home Ministry to two private contractors through a tender process. The Home Ministry’s Department of Culture was also the key agency that helped the monastery to come up with the structure.

Since the project was initiated before the 10th five year plan, complete information couldn’t be availed from the ministry. The head of Division for Conservation of Heritage Sites under the Home Ministry, Nagtsho Dorji said the focal person who took care of the project was out of station for a week and the information could be fetched upon his arrival. “Unfortunately, he is the only person who would know about this and I would be able to answer only on what happened within the 10th five year plan,” Nagtsho Dorji said.

The then Home Secretary Dasho Penden Wangchuk who is currently the cabinet secretary said “very unfortunately, the contractors whom we thought would do a good job let us down.”

He said the “monastery wanted to take up the works themselves but then the government had to follow procedures and in the end the two contractors let us down. Nobody can deny that the quality was poor.”

The principal of the Pangrizampa monastic school, Lopen udzin Ugyen Dorji said monks had to live under pathetic conditions before the construction and even after the completion of it as works done were poor.

“Just like pigs, we had to eat, sleep and pray in the same room,” one of the senior monks who were there even before the constructions began said.

Many monks who talked to The Bhutanese said they had to find time from their daily monastic duties to help with the renovation works. “Although not much, it did affect our studies as well,” another monk said.

The Udzin said complete renovation had to be done on all the structures. “For instance, the toilet and bathroom they constructed had to be completely deracinated and redone using the monastery’s finance,” he said.

Electrical wirings were poorly done and the monastery had no choice but to dismantle everything and put it back together. “The electrical wiring was out of order in just one year and we had to redo the wiring from scratch,” a senior monk said.

“In some parts, planks and wooden pillars started to rot. Maybe it was because there was no room for air,” the Udzin said.

They wires were spread carelessly beneath the floor planks which had to be pulled up and replaced. “They didn’t want the PVC pipes and wires to be visible but we were worried that it might be dangerous. If there is a fire it can bring down everything in just an hour. We were all gripped by worries so we repaired everything,” a monk said.

Even the plumbing works for drinking water supply had to be repaired from source. Residents said the contractors just dug around six inches to bury the water pipes. “We pulled out the pipes, dug up around 3feet to place the pipes and it is all good,” the Udzin said.

Sanitation structures also had to be rebuilt. Senior monks at the monastery said they had to replace the four inches-wide poor quality pipe used in the toilet construction with an authentic six inched ones which cost about Nu 0.2mn including labor.

The bathroom which was equipped with geysers for hot water shower was not used at all due to poor infrastructure and defunct water heaters. “We didn’t use it even once and also didn’t feel the need to repair it because of financial constraints,” the Udzin said.

A carpenter was kept on payroll by the monastery on a daily basis during the renovation as cracks started developing in the walls.

While the renovation works are almost over, one of the buildings used as a prayer hall is still under repair. “Firstly we have the financial constraints and secondly it’s hard to get human resources,” the Udzin said.

The monastery in the past had written several times to the concerned engineers and contractors which elicited no response at all.

The Udzin said, “frankly speaking, we feel it is the engineer’s job to see into all these matters but there hasn’t been any good work done here despite requests from our side.” They didn’t pay heed to our letters once their contract period was over,” he added.

Many monks at the monastery said the “contractors constructed the buildings in haste which could be the cause of all these issues. Even if they did that, they should have at least done it in a way that repair was not necessary immediately after completion of construction. When this is the government’s way of executing works, it saddens us all.”

A total of almost Nu 0.7mn was spent to repair the structures that started to fall apart less than a year after its completion.

The Udzin said he is grateful to the Austrian donor who generously contributed toward building proper structures that is benefiting more than 120 monks at the monastery.

“The donor visits us annually and during the first visit after the structures were completed, he said it was disheartening to see the results despite pumping in sufficient capital,” the Udzin said.

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  1. The problem lies in the system i.e. all the works are required to be taken up after fulfilling due delligence. As per this, the tender is floared, obtain rates and award the works to the lowest bidders. In some cases the contractors specially the small and medium ones they submit the rates way below the estimates as low as 50%. Here, if we do not award the work to the lowest bidder again ther is objection from the concern agencies like audit, and other watch dogs but everyone knows that the work will suffer and the contractor will run into losses. If on the other hand the A grade contractors they collude and quote rates as high as 50% above the department estimates. here also we have to award the work to the lowest bidder and everyone is very happy because awarded the work to the lowest bidder, not realizing the fact that the cost has gone up by 50% to the govt. exchequer. Further, some of our Bhutanese contractors have no work culture i.e. they divert the capital. As soon as the mobilisation money of 10% of awarded cost is released the contractor purchases Land Cruiser and does not pay the laborers and they run away and work suffers.
    It is high time that we review our procurement process otherwise there will be endless problems such as AIRPORT PROJECTS. It is good that our contractors are not engaged in big projects such as PHPA-I &II and other projects.

    • Dear frd, govt estimate of some agencies are accurate(They estimate as per present cost of market) but 90 % are inaccurate as they copy rate from BSR 2009 or 2011, Govt labour rate is Nu. 150 per day and market rate is 250 per day. Moreover fact is Govt engineer( except few) have no practical knowledge, they can only tortures contractor. Be practical be safe. 
      Govt never give due advantages to good construction company who do quality job and lead to poor quality work because lowest bidder sucks every time.. 

  2. shame shame shame…the govt must take responsibility.

  3. It is not the problem of procurement rules. The rules are clear and stringent. The problem lies with the engineers who take up this project. they are suppose to come up with structurally sound design and monitor the construction all round. that is where they have failed to execute their responsibilities. Instead most engineers colloborate with contractors in return for some illegal payments or gifts. It is rampant in all construction.

  4. Just reflects the governments concern for our brother monks and the government’s priorities – consigning monks to second class citizens because they have no votes.

  5. thebhutanese should hear from the two contractors side as well so that news can be balance…otherwise one sided news is also a conflict of interest.

  6. Laksam is right, i agree. If the project is successfully implemented, no body appreciated. But the success is accompanied with some failure as well since no body is perfect in this world. But the slight failure is always considered huge and appear on the media, but not to forget that RAA is perfect, i forgot since they do work without any failure. 

  7. Laksam has made some good points, but just to clarify one wrong notion you are having la, i.e., the practice of giving work to the lowest bidder is not a universal truth. For any project, an estimate that is very reasonable in terms of assuring quality for the project as well as reasonable profit for the contractor would have been already made by the concerned government agency. If for instance all bidders bid below that figure, all will be disqualified and re-tender is done. 

  8. @NIDU, you are correct, but some contractors drag the whole committee members to court for doing that. There is provision for retendering but sometimes we have to go with the below estimates. Some of the Changiji buildings were awarded below estimate and because of that see the quality of buildings.

  9. Media magnifying lens for failure while they write objectively for positive things…..

    Having said that problem was there in the system. Unless we do bureaucratic overhaul, this system will stay. The time will come where weak political leaderships will have to bow down to systematic bureaucrats. With RCSC backing, bureaucrats are acting already.
    As said earlier 80% of corruptions are at bureaucratic levels because they control informations for policy makers and they have freedom to interpret policies as it suits them most.

    Thats why scholarship announcements will come once after poor students are enrolled in bhutanese university.

  10. this is actually the reflection of the quality of governance we have. look at our roads. Oh I cannot describe their conditions……very very poor all round. so what is happening? Who is in control? where is the accountability. Nothing!

  11. Governance has nothing to do with the renovation works. The work is executed by the contractor and supervised by an individual engineer or qualified technical person. If the engineer and the contractor had colluded, nothing can be done because things would have been properly messed up. Thats it!

  12. laksam, what do you mean govt has nothing to do? Nothing can be done! What nonsense are you talking about? you are either innocent in governance or you do not care.
    The govt has lot to do here. If the govt is itself is corrupt then what can they do? They take no action. No one is held accountable for misdoing or mismanaging then things will be like that. Because contractors know they can get away with their shoddy work since govt do not care. So transparency and accountability is what we should talk about here. Pl think beofre making such cheap comment in such a forum.

  13. Simply shameful….

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