KATHMANDU, April 3: A day after the terminating the controversial COVID-19 emergency medical equipment procurement contract with Omni Business Corporate, the government decided to entrust the supply the materials to Nepal Army through government to government process.
But the government’s move has face criticisms again with the leaders within the ruling party and various other quarters slamming the decision as “weakness” and questing the government’s “competence”.
सार्वजनिक खरीद विक्रीको काममा समेत सेनालाई प्रयोग गर्नु उपयुक्त हुंदैन। सेनाले पनि त्यस्तो जिम्मा स्विकार गर्नु हुँदैन। त्यसले सरकारको नियमित कार्य क्षमतामा ह्रास आएको र असक्षम भएको प्रमाणित गर्दछ। मलाई लाग्दैन हामी त्यो अवस्थामा पुगिसकेका छौं https://t.co/8wobv5SuDA
— Kamal Thapa (@KTnepal) April 3, 2020
Rastriya Prajatantra Party Chair Kamal Thapa argued that it will be inappropriate to hand the job of public procurement to the army.
“Nor the army should accept the tender,” Thapa wrote on his Twitter account.
“Or it will prove government’s incompetence,” he added.
यो औषधी खरिदकाण्डको नालीबेली बुझ्दै जाँदा वर्तमान सरकार सबै पार्टपूर्जा खुस्केको दुर्घटना उन्मूख गाडी जस्तो देखिन्छ! यो दुर्घटनाले गाडी हाँक्ने नालायक र होश गुमिसकेका मान्छेहरू मात्र होइन देशका तीन करोड जनताको ज्यान जाने खतरा रहन्छ! हामी सबै डीलबाट खस्न लागेको गाडीसंगै सती जाने? https://t.co/fopCWWlToc
— नियमित हात धोऔं / Wash your hands ! (@brb1954) April 3, 2020
Former prime minister and Samajbadi Party Federal Council Chair Dr. Baburam Bhattarai commented saying the government is heading toward an accident that would doom 30 million Nepali citizens.
“Should we go Sati with the government?” he questioned.
हुरीबतास आयो, घर बनाउने जिम्मा सेनालाई । महामारी आयो, औषधी किन्ने जिम्मा सेनालाई । ठूलो बजेट भयो, बाटो बनाउने जिम्मा सेनालाई । यो सेनाको यो कामै होइन। सेनामा अख्तियारले हेर्न नपाउने भएकाले लिने-दिने दुबैलाई राम्रै लाग्ला तर हाम्रो प्रणााली कमजोर हुन्छ । दीर्घकालीन रुपमा सोचौँ ।
— Bishnu Rijal (@bishnurijal1) April 3, 2020
Nepal Communist Party leader Bishnu Rijal expressed his dissatisfaction saying this is not the job of the army.
“Housing, road construction, medicine procurement … all tenders are awarded to Nepal Army. It is not their work. Let’s think for the long-term.”
OLI ON HOT WATER
Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli is also not untouched by the criticisms, especially after it was revealed that he tampered with the minute of Council of Ministers’ meeting to assign the tender to the army.
Reports have claimed that Chief Secretary Lok Darshan Regmi added the agenda of awarding the contract to the army as per the direction of the prime minister, concerned ministries have expressed ignorance about the decision.
The Health Ministry had scrapped the contract with Omni Group after a Nepali businessman in China disclosed that the government was procuring the medical equipment such as PPEs, test kits, ir thermometer and other essential materials at a price four to seven times higher than the usual price. He also accused Health Minister Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal of embezzling more than Rs 500 million in the procurement process. Also, the rapid testing kits supplied by the company were substandard.
The government had awarded the procurement contract worth Rs 1.25 billion necessary to combat the coronavirus to Omni Group on March 29.
Bagmati Province Assembly member and Bibeksheel Nepali Dal leader Ramesh Paudyal has filed a complaint against Minister for Health and Population Bhanubhakta Dhakal at the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority accusing him of canceling the procurement tender announced three months ago and awarding the contract to the unregistered company (at Department of Commerce) and businessmen close to him overnight and without competitive bidding, purchasing the medical supplies at an exorbitantly high price and asked the anti-graft body to launch a thorough investigation into the financial irregularities.
But the Health Ministry has dismissed committing any irregularities saying the purchase price was a “bit higher since the materials are in short supply across the globe”. The ministry also clarified that they terminated the contract with the Omni Group as the company failed to supply materials as promised. The ministry had also seized the 50 million security deposit.