May 15: The Department of Roads, which received a significant portion of the capital budget, has been able to spend just 31 percent of the allocated budget in the first nine months of the current fiscal year. With two months left until the end of the fiscal year, the department has spent less than one-third of the budget mostly on roads and bridges of national pride projects.
The department is undertaking 57 projects and programmes including national pride projects. Out of them, the expenditure of some projects looks good while the spending in most of the projects is dismal. This year, the department was allocated a budget of Rs 128.27 billion. As per the third quarterly progress report of the department, Rs 39.66 billion was spent in the nine-month period.
Shiva Prasad Nepal, acting director general of the department, said that the total capital budget expenditure will reach 65 percent this year. Capital expenditure is steadily declining since the beginning of this year. He said that the capital expenditure came down due to the replacement bill, delay in appointment of departmental ministers and the scrapping of three divisional road offices (Lalitpur, Pyuthan and Khurkot).
According to him, due to frequent changes in the Public Procurement Regulations, extension of time and construction holiday for some time, the spending situation will be weakened this year. “Construction entrepreneurs have slowed down the work due to rising prices. On the other hand, the pace of work is slowed down as the workers go to their village 10-15 days ahead of the local elections.”
Although three road division offices were abolished this year, the budget was still allocated for them. However, the department says that the budget expenditure has been affected due to lack of working environment. According to Nepal, some projects to be built with the help of donors such as Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have been included in the current year's budget. This is 15 percent of the total capital budget of the department. According to the Acting Director General, Nepal, the total capital expenditure of the department has come down as the budget under this heading could not be spent as well.
Capital expenditure will be further reduced as construction entrepreneurs have announced 'construction holiday' during the main working season this year. According to the quarterly progress report, 515 kilometers of roads were blacktopped in the last nine months. Altogether 155 kilometers of new tracks were constructed and 265 kilometers of gravel roads were constructed. Similarly, 81 bridges of strategic importance were built during the review period.
Rs 3.48 billion was spent on the Mid-Hills Highway, a national pride project, till the third quarter of the current fiscal year. The progress made was blacktopping of 78 kilometers of road and construction of two bridges. Similarly, Rs 4.25 billion were spent on postal highways during this period. According to the department, 103 kilometers of road was blacktopped and 12 bridges were constructed during this period. The department informed that Rs 300 million has been spent on the Nagdhunga tunnel.
A total of Rs 3.52 billion has been spent on the Madan Bhandari Highway as of mid-April.
Ashok Bhandari, director of Madan Bhandari Highway Project, says the budget is low and this highway is not a priority of the government. He said that 91 percent of the allocated budget has been spent but the contract for other road sections could not be issued due to lack of budget.
Hari Kumar Pokhrel, director of the Mid-Hills Highway Project Directorate, said that problems in expenditure surfaced due to lack of budget and site clearance for compensation. Stating that the project has spent only 48 percent of the budget so far, he said that Rs 180 million is needed for compensation. The eastern and western sections of the Narayanghat-Butwal road are also among those spending less. According to the department, a total of Rs 770 million is spent in the eastern part. A budget of Rs 430 million is spent in the west. The Kanchanpur-Kamala road is also low on expenditure. Out of the budget of Rs 3.21 billion, Rs 1.87 billion has been spent on this road.