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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Govt transfers water secretary over payment dispute

Kathmandu, February 19

The government has transferred Water Supply Secretary Gajendra Thakur following his tussle with Water Supply Minister Bina Magar over reappointment of a contractor that was dismissed from the Melamchi Drinking Water Project, a crucial project that can deliver 170 million litres of water per day to Kathmandu valley.

Minister Magar and Thakur had explored possibilities of roping back Italian contractor, Co-operativa Muratori e Cementisti (CMC) di Ravenna, to complete the Melamchi Project, according to high-level sources at the Ministry of Water Supply. The Italian firm was removed from the project after it abandoned the project.

“Minister Magar was keen on bringing back the Italian contractor by releasing whatever payment the firm demanded and asked the secretary to sign a letter to reengage the Italian firm in the drinking water project,” a source said on condition of anonymity. “But the secretary refused to do so.”

Minister Magar, according to the source, had ordered Thakur to unfreeze the security bond of Rs 2.56 billion, which the government had earlier seized. The minister had also ordered Thakur to provide compensation of Rs 1.61 billion to the Italian firm, as per its demand, the source informed. The Italian company has also demanded additional payment of Rs 3 billion from the government, citing cost variation and the minister demanded that Thakur make arrangements to release that payment as well, the source said, adding, “If payments are released as demanded by the Italian firm, the government will have to fork out over Rs 7 billion.”

Minister Magar could not be contacted. Her press secretary also refused to comment on the issue.

Earlier, Minister Magar had sent a team to Singapore to hold negotiations with officials of the Italian company.

The minister had dispatched the team without taking Thakur and Surya Raj Kandel, executive director of Melamchi Drinking Water Development Committee (MDWDC), into confidence. The team included MDWDC Deputy Managing Director Bhoj Bikram Thapa, Dinesh Shrestha, who represented local sub-contractors, and Bijaya Bhattarai, Minister Magar’s personal secretary.

“Magar has been exerting pressure on Thakur to agree to the demands of the Italian firm since the team’s return to Nepal,” the source said.

Thakur has confirmed about his transfer. “But I have not received a formal letter yet,” he said, adding, “I don’t know why I was transferred.”

The government had formally decided to scrap the contract with the Italian firm on January 20. The termination of the contract is expected to delay construction of the much-awaited Melamchi Water Supply Project, which began in 2001 and was expected to be completed in the next few months.

The post Govt transfers water secretary over payment dispute appeared first on The Himalayan Times.



from Business – The Himalayan Times https://ift.tt/2GEBt1t

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