Asks to take action against engineers and dzongkhag officials
Report: The Royal Audit Authority (RAA) has asked the Ministry of Works and Human Settlements (MoWHS) to take action against the ministry’s officials for irregularities and lapses in development of roads for Denchi town, Pemagatshel.
The authority has also asked the dzongkhag administration to take appropriate action against seven engineers, an accountant and five dzongkhag tender committee (DTC) members, who were fixed both direct and supervisory accountability.
While reviewing the account records, internal controls and operations of the Pemagatshel dzongkhag administration, auditors found that additional works worth Nu 101.614 million (M) was awarded to the same contractor, U Wangchuk Construction based in Paro, whose license was already suspended by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
The DTC awarded the contract work for the development of access road for Denchi township at a contract cost of Nu 24.248M on September 27, 2011 based on the design, drawing and detailed estimates prepared by the Urban Infrastructure Service Division, Department of Engineering Services.
The contract, which was supposed to complete on August 8, 2012, comprised of two components – widening of existing road and internal roads.
While the work was ongoing, ACC had suspended U Wangchuk Construction’s contract license on January 26, 2012. Subsequently, the Construction Development Board also informed that the CDB registration certificate of U Wangchuk Construction was “suspended indefinitely.”
However, the contractor was instructed to complete and handover the ongoing works that were awarded prior to issuance of suspension to not interrupt the ongoing contract works.
On review of the contract related documents, the RAA, however, found three additional works were awarded to the same contractor.
“The award of additional works was in violation of ACC suspension orders vis-à-vis the procurement rules and regulations (PRR) as the additional works of Nu 101.614M represented almost 324.21 percent of the initial contract period,” the RAA report of May stated.
The dzongkhag administration maintained that the award of additional works was attributed to lapses in initial survey, designs, drawings and estimates prepared by the MoWHS and instructions of the visiting engineer from the ministry recorded in the site order book.
Based on the instruction in the site order book, the dzongkhag administration awarded the first additional contract work, construction of retaining walls amounting to Nu 39.744M on June 28, 2013. The second, also a retaining wall worth Nu 33.688M was sanctioned on March 7, 2014 and another Nu 21.07M for black topping the access road in July.
The RAA also found that there were lapses in the monitoring and supervision of the work at site including lack of proper documentation and irregularities in time extension. “There were also instances of collapse of retaining walls and subsequent reconstructions by the contractor depicting deficiencies in design and structural soundness,” Auditor General Dasho Ugen Chewang in a letter to the home secretary on May 1 stated.
U Wangchuk’s contract license was revoked by the Mongar district court in April 2013 for fraudulent and deceptive practice, bribery and compromising quality of construction of the basic health unit (BHU) in Narang, which collapsed during the 2009 earthquake.
Auditors also observed an over payment of Nu 11.548M was made for works not executed on the road development works at Denchi. From the total over payments, Nu 4.752M has been recovered.
The report, which was shared with the ACC for follow up, stated that the department of engineering services and dzongkhag administration should thoroughly review the award of additional works in violation of the PRR-2009 and suspension orders and take appropriate action against the officials responsible for the violation and lapses. Both agencies are required to submit action report within three months.
Meanwhile, ACC officials said they are reviewing the audit report. In an earlier interview, ACC officials had said that the dzongkhag authorities could have stopped awarding additional work to the contractor after the firm’s contract license was revoked in 2013.
By Rinzin Wangchuk