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Report digs out loopholes in roads sector

According to the recent Anti-Corruption Commission report, lack of transparency, legislative flaws, weak procedures, improper planning, human resource constraints, and social ties were some of the general issues facing public road construction.

The report found that information accessibility in accessing road contract opportunities is not much of an issue. However, when it was assessed by the annual income of the contractors, 2.1 percent of the respondents with an annual income of Nu 1 million believed it was an issue.

A total of 20.4 percent of respondents did not believe that the procedures were simple and easy to understand stages involved in the clearance, feasibility study, needs assessment, contract implementation, contract supervision and monitoring.

The report stated that besides the risks and opportunities for corruption and wrongdoings associated with complicated procedures, promotion of competitive bidding and value for money could not be achieved.

Respondents highlighted issues of inadequate time for submission of bid, lack of transparency in tender evaluation and bid evaluation, and delay in issuance of environment clearance from National Environmental Commission.

The time taken to settle the bills was another issue that was raised by the contractors. Majority of the respondents from Thimphu and Chukha indicated that it took more than 30 days to settle bills.

The respondents also pointed out that it is very difficult to find and employ national labourers in road construction at the current national daily wage. The road department also stated the same.

Sixty percent of respondent said sub-contracting is a major issue. Although Section 6.3.5.1 of PRR allows sub-contracting of 20 percent of the total value of contract, the provision is exploited. The practice is prevalent in the border regions.

Respondents (54.8 percent) said that untimely release of funds is an issue.

However, the report stated that in consultation with the finance ministry this was mostly pertaining to the donor funded.

Going by complaint records with ACC, 14 percent of the complaints were related to flaws in the planning process in road construction. The Annual Performance Audit Report of the Department of Roads 2008 also observed poor planning in the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges.

The report mentioned that frequent road blocks in the country during the monsoon could be result of undertaking construction without carrying out a thorough study of the soil conditions due to the absence of geotechnical expertise.

According to the report, 51.7 percent of the respondents said contractors do not have experienced engineers, 22.4 percent of the respondents said personal relationship with the head of the agency helps in getting the contract.

More than 19 percent said relationship with the engineers also helped in getting the contract including favouritism (18.7%), family or personal relationship (17.2%), and political affiliation (16.7%).

Yangchen C Rinzin

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