Road projects worth Rs 26b in limbo due to handover delays

Monday, November 19th, 2018 | | Money

Provincial road construction works worth Rs26 billion have been halted for months due to the delay in handing over the projects to the respective provincial government even after budget allocations.

According to the Department of Roads, there are around 1,100 regional and urban road projects that need to be handed over to the provincial governments in line with a work division between the three tiers of government.

Continued halt to works in these projects could affect development expenditure of provincial governments.

Amid confusion over who implements the projects, construction works had slowed on these roads since the beginning of the current fiscal year. About a month ago, the department wrote to its divisional offices across the country not to take forward the projects.

Mukti Gautam, spokesperson for the department, told the Post that they had to discontinue with the works as the Finance Ministry did not ensure budget for the works.

“We had asked the Finance Ministry how the department could get resources to carry on the works after some contractors claimed their payment. The Finance Ministry responded that the resources should be arranged from those allocated to the provincial governments,” he said.

But there has been a delay in handing over the projects to the provincial governments. Officials said provincial administrations were reluctant to take over the projects due to the inadequacy of allocated funds this fiscal.

“Around Rs7 billion has been set aside for these projects in the current fiscal year, which is not enough for the projected completion of works,” said Rajendra Raj Sharma, spokesperson for the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport. “The provincial governments are asking us to hand these over to them with adequate budget. An additional Rs10 billion will be required to complete the targeted works within the current fiscal.”

However, provincial officials say transfer of these projects was delayed in the absence of formal decisions.

“We obviously want more funds to maximise the works but we have not refused to accept them citing insufficient budget,” said Ananda Raj Dhakal, principal secretary in Province 3. Governments of Provinces 3 and 4 have shown interest to receive the projects immediately, according to officials at the Physical Infrastructure Ministry.

However, they said that some provinces were also reluctant to take over the projects immediately in the absence of technical expertise to implement them. Provincial governments have been complaining about inadequate staff, particularly the lack of technical work force.

There is also the need for consensus among the federal and provincial governments, contractors and financial institutions giving them bank guarantee, according to officials. “We have initiated discussion with the stakeholders. Hopefully, the issue will be settled within a few days,” said Sharma.