The Railway Department under the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport has cancelled the controversial contract bids for Inaruwa-Kakarbhitta railway trackbed. The cancellation notice was published in a national daily today.

The Railway Department had issued an invitation in Annapurna Post on June 28 and Nagarik Daily on July 1 for contract bids to construct the 106 kilometer-long trackbed.

A total of 54 contracting firms had been selected, allegedly on the basis of their influential relation with some big-wigs, for the project worth 35 billion rupees (35 Arba Nepali rupees).

The government was forced to cancel the tender following an outcry from all quarters stating that the tender had been awarded on the basis of political influence and without acquiring the required land first, in contrast to the directives of the Public Procurement Act, Office of the Auditor General, and Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA).

It has been reported that influential politicians, construction entrepreneurs, CIAA, senior officials within the Prime Minister’s Office, Nepali Congress leaders, Public Accounts Committee, Development Committee and bureaucrats were working to embezzle as much as Rs 10 billion from the contract.

As per the provisions in Public Procurement Act, an invitation for tender should not be called until the required land for a project is acquired.

The Act also mandates that land acquisition, EIA, IEEA and tree felling have to be completed on the proposed construction sites before calls for contract bids are issued.

Moreover, the Ministry of Forests and Environment has not permitted the cutting down of trees in the area as more than 800 trees will have to be felled along the proposed trackbed.

Similarly, the Office of the Auditor General has repeatedly instructed the government not to invite tender bids until the project site is cleared.

Sources say that the tender was called to ‘support PM Oli’s railway dreams’ and hence the trackbed was to be built from Jhapa, where Oli grew up, in order to get a green signal from the prime minister.