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Who Is Running This Country?

Issue August 2019

Who Is Running This Country?

Siddhi B. Ranjitkar


Who has been running this country? Obviously, Prime Minister Oli has not been running it if he has been then there would have been no irregularities means corruption in the administration, as Mr. Oli has the zero tolerance of corruption he had repeatedly stated in the past, and the country would have been on the path of “Prosperous Nepal and Happy Nepali” Mr. Oli had promised to build. However, the sincere elected officials including the ministers, and mayors and so on had been powerless to make the contractors work properly so that development projects would be completed on time. This is only one of hundreds of thousands of irregularities going on in the State administration.


The news on the front page of “gorkhapatra” stated on August 4, 2019 that the chief (mayor) of the Changunarayan Municipality: Mr. Somprasad Mishra said, “first, I sent for a contractor; (he) did not show up, then I tried to call out the contractor through the Chief District Office, no response; then I went to searching the home of the contractor; then I said, we stakeholders eight to ten folks would come to you for talks, either in your office or the office of the municipality; let us talk; then he gave us a time table (of work) in conjunction with his technical person to complete the work, but nothing happened.


Then, I went to Former Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” to state this problem; then and there, he made a telephone call to the contractor and told him to complete the work as soon as possible but the road was not done. Then, we put forward this problem to the Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gokul Prasad Banskota at the time when he visited this area to participate in a program; giving the top priority to this problem, he took this issue to Prime Minister Oli. The angry prime minister lashed out at the contractor but the road was not done.


After the contractor had not responded to even the prime minister, I applied to the Development and Technology Committee of the sovereign Federal Parliament. Taking this case seriously, Chairperson of the Committee: Kalyani Khadka with a team came for the on-site inspection of the road. The parliamentary committee (chairperson), Project In-charge, Chief District Officer, Local Stakeholders, and chief of Sailung Construction Company Pvt Ltd: Sharada Prasad Adhikari together agreed on completing the road in the coming five months, let us see what happens.” The road in question is the Bhaktapur-Nagarkot Road.


Probably, this is one of the representative stories of all the thousands of ongoing construction projects in Nepal. If the mayor, then the former prime minister, and ultimately the sitting prime minister were not able to force a contractor to work then who would be able to do so? The mayor was not sure whether the contractor would keep the commitment made to complete the road within five months.


Is it not strange that even the prime minister could not force the contractor to work on the project? Yes, it is but if anybody has any idea of how the State administration works then either the prime minister or the Prachanda could not do anything to make the contractor work as the contractor had the contract with the project not with the prime minister or Prachanda. Here, the question is why the prime minister did not call the project in-charge and make the project in-charge work following the rules and regulations and the contract the project had with the contractor, and hold the project in-charge accountable to not completing the construction of the road or the contractor not working rather than directly ordering the contractor. So, anybody could say that both Prachanda and the prime minister must have been playing a simple nice and convincing drama rather than working as a catalyst for completing the construction of the road; obviously, they are not running the country, as it should be to make Nepal a prosperous country. They might have been using their status and power for probably running the business of making money for themselves for their near and dear ones and certainly for their sycophants.


The Sailung Construction appeared in the news published on the front page of “Artha Bazaar” of “gorkhapatra” on August 13, 2019, too, and the news stated that the main contractor: the Sailung Construction asked for time extension for completing the work on the Kalanki-Nagdhunga road; time extension had been done three times but the work had not been completed; the contractor had asked for extension of time for one year the project in-charge of the Kathmandu Valley Road Extension Project stated but the project was not for extending the time for a year.


Another news on the front page of “gorkhapatra” published on August 5, 2019 stated that the Koshi corridor that connects Bharat and China: this North-South commercial road, is important from the high economic and commercial point of view; the delay in opening the last 14 km track (of the Koshi corridor) has negatively impacted the entire project; during the last eight months no progress had been made in opening the track; after the completion of the construction of the 390 km long corridor, it would link the two large countries: Bharat and China; the construction of the Koshi corridor was started off in 2008 (2065), and the target of completion date was 2013 (2070); however the target of completion was pushed to 2020 (2077) because during that period even 25 percent of the work was not completed; the total cost of the Koshi corridor is NPR 5.79 billion.


The Koshi corridor is another representative story of thousands of construction projects including the nationally important Melamchi Drinking Water Project, which had been invariably delayed, which was initiated in 2009 and supposed to complete in 2013 but it would probably never be completed because as long as this project is ongoing the folks in power probably could have the commissions. The work on Melamchi Drinking Water Project had been stopped during the last eight months but nothing had been known when the work would start again. The folks in the Kathmandu Valley had been simply waiting indefinitely and tolerating the delay.


The news on the State media repeatedly fed the Nepalis the Melamchi Project has been the final stage of completion, as the news on the front page of “Artha Bazaar of “gorkhapatra” stated on August 15, 2019 that the project has reached the final stage of awarding the job on the Melamchi Project to a contractor; and Minister for Drinking Water and Hygiene: Bina Magar had instructed the staffers to go and work on the project site. Any sincere minister would have moved even his or her office to the project site to complete the project that had been shamelessly delayed for such an unbelievable time.


The front news published in “gorkhapatra” on August 8, 2019 stated that the newly appointed Minister for Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation: Yogesh Bhattarai said that at least a foundation stone would be laid for the construction of the Nizgad International Airport within six months; it would in fact be the Tribhuvan International Airport because the distant between Kathmandu and the airport would be one-hour drive after a fast-track highway would be constructed, the minister further stated.


If anybody had read or had listened to the budget speech of Dr. Yubraj Khatiwada for the fiscal year 2019 (2076) then s/he would know that the finance minister had not allocated any budget for the Nizgad airport even though a certain budget was allocated to it in the budget for the fiscal year 2018 (2075). The concerned lawmaker had vigorously criticized the finance minister for not allocating any budget for this airport in the budget for the FY 2019 (2076). Now, the concerned minister has been on the scene to do something. Whether the minister would be able to do what he had said to do without a budget?


Both the finance minister and the minister for culture, tourism and civil aviation belong to the same council of ministers Prime Minister Oli presides over. How come the finance minister did not allocate any budget for the Nizgad airport but the minister for culture, tourism and civil aviation said that he was going to build the airport. Again the question is who is running the administration.


The next news on the front page of  “gorkhapatra” stated on August 5, 2019 is that the Commission on Investigation into Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has filed a case against Vice-chancellor of BP Koirala Health Science Academy: Prof. Dr. Rajkumar Rauniyar at the Special Court in Kathmandu demanding the fine and jail punishments; the spokesman for CIAA stated that Prof. Dr. Rauniyar had taken illegal payments of NPR 12.80 million at different times while issuing the checks for the running bills to the contractor for constructing the hostel and pharmacy building; the contractor had recorded audio and video of the conversation and the illegal payments made, which had been submitted as the evidences against Vice-chancellor Prof. Dr. Rauniyar.


Poor Prof. Dr. Rauniyar, who had received only NPR 12. 80 million, which is a peanut in comparison to other irregular payments worth billions of rupees if not hundreds of billions made to the high officials and the politicians, got snarled up in the commission payment of so small amount; unfortunately, he was caught red handed whereas those shrewd politicians and their collaborators, who made hundreds of billions of rupees did not get caught. The sad story is that one of the high officials of the Commission on Investigation into Abuse of Authority (CIAA) said that investigating alleged irregularities ministers had committed would put the job at risk, the media news reported. Anyway this is another typical example of one of the probably thousands of such cases happening elsewhere in Nepal where development projects were launched.


The smart contractor caught the apparently shady Vice-chancellor: Prof. Dr. Rauniyar in a video and audio whereas the Oli administration might have even no idea of what had been happening in thousands of such cases. Only such clever contractors could fight against the corrupt practices unfortunately prevailing in the current Oli administration. Not all contractors are so bright to bring the chief of an organization that commit such crimes to justice.


One account of the private media stated that any heads of the State agencies collects the commission at least at the three stages. First, the concerned accountant holds on a check for the mobilization amount given for the construction of any structures until the concerned contractor pays the commission. Then, the contractors have to pay the commission on the running bills, and finally on the last check. Again, such things have been widely perceived but the Oli administration has been pathetic to stop such irregularities. Then, the question is who is running the administration.


Observers speculate that none of the heads of any State organizations including the elected offices issues any checks to the vendors without receiving commissions for any purchases done or for any contracts awarded. Recently, even folks elected to the local, provincial and the federal parliament have purchased a number of brand new vehicles setting aside the old ones even though most of them are useable with some maintenance. Obviously, such purchases are done only to earn commission from the purchases, every person in the Nepalese society knows.


Such things had made the bureaucrats and the politicians plumped up while the common folks slimed down because of the burden of the tax they carried on their shoulders for the obvious highly affluent societies of those people in power and administration. The gap between the haves and have-nots has been widening very fast every day. The politicians and the bureaucrats have been the modern feudal lords the common folks have to work for. Those modern lords have been legally looting the common folks increasing the tax on everything anybody could name. That is called the widening of the tax net, the finance minister says. Certainly, it was for making more money for the State. It would have been returned to the common folks had the people in power wisely used it for the prosperity of the people in general.


The news on the front page of “gorkhapatra” stated on August 13, 2019 that an irregularity in purchasing 16 vehicles for chairpersons of the federal parliamentary committees had been suspected as the vehicles had developed the technical glitch only after a month of the purchase of the vehicles; each vehicles cost NPR 5.58 million. The total cost of purchasing those vehicles was NPR 16x5.58 million = NPR 89.28 million. This amount is not a small one for the country like Nepal. This amount could construct a number of school buildings, health posts or health centers that the common folks so needed.


Common folks had to cross over rivers on zip-cars risking their lives in absence of suspension bridges across Nepal. What those chairpersons of the federal parliamentary committees had done for the common folks to enjoy the ride of such luxurious and highly costly cars at the cost of the taxpayers. They could use simple and cost effective cars if they really needed to use the State vehicles otherwise they could use the public transport or their private vehicles, as all the lawmakers were provided with transport expenses, house rent and what not at the cost of the entire nation. It is not surprise that Nepal has been one of the poorest countries because of such unique behavior and intention of the lawmakers.


Obviously, the finance minister must have been squeezing the entire working class folks enforcing them to register for Permanent Account Number (PAN) and then pay value-added tax (VAT) on their earnings, probably, the State to have sufficient resources for the purchase of such highly luxurious cars for the comfort of the chairpersons of the federal parliamentary committees, and surely for the foreign visits of the prime minister, ministers, other high ranking politicians with their spouses, and then for their medical treatment in the most expensive hospitals in Singapore, Japan, or the United States of America as if Nepal had no hospitals that could treat them.


The federal government, then the provincial governments and local governments such as municipalities and village councils had been competing with each other to impose tax as much as they could. The main burden of such tax had been on the common folks, who also pay tax on everything they buy and consume. Probably, most of the folks, who had voted for the communists and made them to have the two-thirds majority, must have been the victims of the ever-increasing tax on everything anybody could think of.


On the other hand Nepal has been sinking in the pool of irregularities in the administration particularly the financial administration and then of course the widespread corruption endemic in the administration. Prime Minister Oli, who had been so fond of saying that he had the zero tolerance of corruption and irregularities in the administration, had stopped saying anything about such immorality, and had entirely stopped saying “Prosperous Nepal and Happy Nepali” recently.


The rainy season development activities that involved billions of rupees have been notorious. Such development activities have been not for building any thing tangible but consuming the annual budget at the end of every fiscal year. The Oli administration could not stop it means the Oli administration apparently is really not running the businesses of the country. Obviously, some invisible hands must have been running the State businesses if the Oli administration is not running them.


The news with a picture of the fallen wall on the ninth page of “gorkhapatra” stated on August 12, 2019 that the wall built in a hurry to consume the budget in the last month of the last fiscal year (2018) has fallen in the first month of the current fiscal year (2019). The wall collapsed after a month of its construction, it was covered with a tarp to avoid the view of the broken wall from the local community; this wall was built along the Gokulasvor-Dilasaini-Mathairaj road, which passes through the ward no 5 and 6 of the Dilasaini Village Council in Baitadi; the Village Council had allocated NPR 4.5 million for the road then added NPR 1.5 million making it NPR 6 million for the road and the wall, the news stated.


This is another representative story of the rush of the construction of roads and what not in the last month of a fiscal year only to finish off the budget but not the project. So, the village councils or municipalities could allocate budgets to such incomplete projects next year, and then run them again in the last month of a fiscal year to consume the budget every year.


Again the question is why the Oli administration could not stop such malpractices. Majority of the elected local representatives are of the Oli’s party. Prime Minister Oli or somebody of his party could issue a circular to the local representatives ordering them to stop construction of anything during the last month of the fiscal year. The Oli administration seems to be unable to do so or probably, it has the share in the irregularly spent budget or both. Who knows?


Where is the NPR 12 billion Minister Gokul Prasad Banskota? Irregularities have been in awarding the contract on 4G, after the person called Dilliram Adhikari placed on the 54th number of hierarchy of the officials was appointed to the managing director of the Nepal Telecom, he gave the contract on 4G to Huawei; Ncell had awarded the contract on the 4G at NPR 6 billion; Nepal Telecom has awarded the contract of the same nature to Huawei at NPR 18 billion; the Oli administration awarding the contract worth of NPR 6 billion, at NPR 18 billion had made the irregularity of NPR NPR 12 billion in a single contract, the news posted on stated.


The highly publicized irregularity in purchasing the two wide body airplanes for the National Airlines Corporation is of only four billion rupees. Neither the opposition nor the political party has been interested in sorting out the problem of irregularity in purchasing the planes. Why none of the major political parties that had been in power off and on and currently in the opposition and the Oli administration have not been able to resolve the irregularity in purchasing the planes, the news further stated.


So, anybody could speculate that the political parties must have their self-interest in purchasing the planes, and probably they must have taken advantage of it. The same thing might be true with the contract of 4G awarded to Huawei at NPR 18 billion because none of the political parties are concerned with it. Some of them are willing to launch a nation wide demonstration for reinstating the Hinduism as the State religion while carrying the dead monarchy on their shoulders but they never mind the irregularities in the State administration, it seemed.


Another piece of the interesting news is about the shortage of fertilizers at the time when the rice transplantation season is at the peak. The news on “kha” page of “Artha Bazaar” of “gorkhapatra” stated on August 12, 2019 that hundred of farmers in Bardiya had been running after urea fertilizer from pillar to post; they had gone to various state agencies that deal with the fertilizers but they had returned empty handed; the Agricultural Inputs Company Ltd in Bardiya stated that Bardiya needs 12,000 tons urea, 10,000 tons DPA, and 250 tons potash but the Agricultural Inputs Company had allocated only 3,000 tons urea, 2,500 tons DPA, and 120 tons potash for Bardiya in this year.


The news on the page “kha” in “Artha Bazaar” of “gorkhapatra” stated on August 17, 2019 that the agricultural cooperatives have been selling the subsidized fertilizers to the traders in the Kapilvastu district; all private stores in the district have been selling fertilizer at the price twice the subsidized price whereas the stores of the cooperatives are empty; farmers have complained that the district has received more fertilizer in this year than the previous one but it has not reached farmers; fertilizer had reached on time but the cooperates had hidden fertilizer to create the artificial shortage, and then sold it to the traders at the high price; the district administration office, the police, and the Agricultural Inputs Company Ltd did not initiate any investigation into the distribution of fertilizer despite repeated pressure on them to address the farmers’ complaint about the irregularity in the fertilizer distribution.


What the finance minister has to say for the farmers on this matter; whether the nine billion rupees he had allocated to the fertilizer for the current fiscal year 2019 (2076) would go to the pockets of those traders, the cooperatives or the district State agencies or the farmers. Obviously, the subsidized fertilizer has been beyond the reach of the farmers, as the cooperatives did not sell fertilizer to the farmers rather to the traders, who in turn charged twice the price, as the news stated. Either the finance minister needed to stop the subsidy on fertilizer and sell the fertilizer at the cost price or investigate the widespread irregularities in selling the fertilizer, and bring the culprits to justice otherwise billions of the taxpayers’ money would land in the pockets of the fertilizer mafia.


How the agricultural production could be increased to meet the demands of the growing population if the fertilizers were not available at the time of the plantation season, and irrigation water was not available making most of the agricultural land dependable on the rain waters. The Minister for Agriculture: Chakrapani Khanal talked about the organic farming but he could not even manage the fertilizers required for the farmers. If we were to believe in the media then the State agencies responsible for procuring the fertilizers and then distributing them work in conjunction with the cooperative and traders and play with the distribution of fertilizers for their own advantages thus wasting the billions of rupees worth of subsidy on fertilizers supposed to reach the farmers for increasing the production and productivity of crops.


The news on the front page of “gorkhapatra” stated on August 13, 2019 that the pharmaceutical companies had invested NPR 25 billion in the drug industries but they could meet only 45 percent of the national requirement of drug because of the State not enforcing its policy on the drug industry; the last year budget had mentioned that Nepal would be made self-sufficient in the drug production; drug producers were happy with the statement; but the government had failed to enforce the policy statement putting the NPR 25 billion investment of 55 drug companies at risk; so, not implementing the government policy had been an obstacle to flourish the national drug industries.


Executive Director of National Youth Council: Madhav Dhungel told the anchor of the Radio Nepal “Antar-sambad” program on the Tuesday morning of August 13, 2019 that every year 500,000 youths go to foreign countries for jobs; only two percent of them possessed the qualification that could compete for the international jobs whereas majority of the youths have to do menial jobs for low payments. He also said that those youths could make attractive earnings from the barber saloons, tailoring, and jewelry making in Nepal; one study had shown that more than NPR 600 billion goes to the neighboring countries as remittances every year from the earnings made by almost 250,000 foreign folks working in these three professions. Executive Director Dhungel also said that the subsidy the State had provided on everything had been widely misused, and widespread irregularities in using the subsidy money had been seen; the youth program his agency implemented had been successful to make the youths self-employed.


Probably the news about a politician is the model of how most of the politicians work is published on the second page of “gorkhapatra” on August 14, 2019, and stated that the High Court in Patan had ordered to arrest the minister of the Karnali Province: Khadga Bahadur Khatri for the banking irregularity; he had produced fake bank guarantees for NPR 5.55 million on June 10, 2016, and NPR 5.53 million on November 4, 2016. Khadga Bahadur Khatri was a CPN-UML candidate and was elected to the provincial legislature.


If a politician had to be so smart for being a provincial minister then anybody could imagine how smart the politicians had to be the ministers of the federal government, and then of course the prime minister. So, the relatives, even distant relatives, and friends of politicians in power enjoyed the special privileges of getting the state contract for any consultancy or for the professional jobs or for the construction contracts, but for the political appointees including the ambassadors they had to be either sons-in-law or the fathers-in-law. No matter how smart and qualified common folks are they would never have such privileges without any connections with the politicians at the center thanks to the two-thirds communist rule?


The Oli administration had been so smart that it had registered a Guthi Bill at the National Assembly provoking the stakeholders to take the issue to the streets and forced the administration to revoke the bill, then the Media Council Bill only to control the free media, and then the Human Rights Bill that also for minimizing the challenges to the State for taking up the human rights violation cases; however, the Oli administration did not even try to amend the Public Procurement Act that had been the main tool for the people in power to delay or prolong the development projects for their own advantages making the beneficiaries to suffer, who had probably voted for the current communist lawmakers to have the two-thirds majority.


The relatively high standard of living of the politicians and the State employees working at the strategic offices with the possibility of high earning irregularly, and the houses they owned, and the silky vehicles they ride, and the most expensive weddings of their daughters and sons they held are surely the common indication of the most of probably the depraved officials have been running the administration, and the assets they must have earned immorally. They have been creating a new class of folks that has been distinctive from the regular class of folks not to mention the peasants and workers. At one of the party gatherings of the Nepal Communist Party, hundreds of silky expensive cars were lined up at a parking lot. Those cars brought the so-called leaders of proletariats means the workers that have nothing except for the labor to sell to a meeting. How shamelessly those politicians have shown their lavish life style to the folks of one of the poorest countries in the world. From where had they got the money to buy such pricey cars if they had not an access to the State treasury?


August 15, 2019

Updated August 17, 2019

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