Construction Conundrum

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The unwarranted delay in the execution of infrastructural and other projects has continued to remain a major challenge facing Nepal’s development sector. Most contractors in the country seem to have a wrong tendency of acquiring as many contracts as possible. But they are hardly found finishing their works within the specified timeframe. They are also often criticised for failing to maintain the quality of construction works. Another common practice among contractors is that they want to get the deadline of projects extended frequently, causing a lot of cost and time overruns. Because of such negligence or inaction on the part of construction companies, even the national pride projects do not get completed timely and the government is forced to allocate an additional budget for such projects. The beneficiaries have been getting fed up with such a shameful situation. 

In this digital era, it has been easier for the beneficiaries and other stakeholders to bring the contractors’ lackluster performance to light by posting them on social media. This kind of public scrutiny has become helpful for making the contractors more attentive in some areas. The relevant government bodies have also been familiar with public complaints against the contractors’ poor performance. Despite this, the contractors are not found carrying out their responsibilities accordingly in one pretext or the other. Public postings on social media like ‘contractor gone missing’ have appeared when the contractor of the concerned project fled the site without concluding the project. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, who is well aware of the contractors’ lethargic and irresponsible behaviour, has called on them to come up with an action plan to improve their shortcomings in terms of quality standard of works and timely completion of projects. 

Speaking at the inaugural session of the 24th General Assembly of the Federation of Contractors Associations of Nepal (FCAN) in Kathmandu on Sunday, the Prime Minister asked the contractors to carry out construction of public infrastructures such as national highways, hydroelectricity projects, water supply projects, among others, on time with the defined quality and estimated budget. He also demanded that the FCAN formulate an action plan to deal with weaknesses on the part of the contractors in regard to timely delivery of projects. The capital expenditure has remained very low over the years due to frequent deferral of construction works. This is not only hampering development activities but also slowing down the circulation of money in the market. In view of this scenario, the Prime Minister has promised to increase capital expenditure and address a myriad of challenges faced by contractors owing to lack of adequate money supply. 

The COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war have also been responsible for the cost and time overrun of development projects. The government must find a solution to this problem. The existing governance system in the field of public construction is also responsible for the poor outcomes. Having realised this, PM Prachanda vowed to reform the governance system related to public construction in order to facilitate the private sector to tackle their problems. He assured that the government would receive inputs and suggestions from the private sector before revising laws and policies concerning construction and contract. Laws and policies on public procurement and construction have been amended time and again. Notwithstanding this, neither the private sector is satisfied nor is the public construction advancing efficiently. It is necessary for the government to identify the crux of this problem and step up measures accordingly.

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