The Irrawaddy

Construction Ministry Keeps Richest School Projects for Itself: Report

NAYPYITAW — The Construction Ministry has come under fire once again for failing to invite tenders for school construction projects.

Lawmakers rebuked the ministry during a discussion of the Joint Public Accounts Committee’s report on construction works for the Basic Education Department in fiscal 2017-18. The department is under the Education Ministry.

The report cited hundreds of projects in which the Construction Ministry simply completed the work itself, instead of inviting companies to submit bids.

The ministry also failed to comply with procedures issued by the President’s Office for selecting tender winners, and neglected to adequately supervise projects to ensure they were completed on time, the report said.

The Education Ministry handed over a total of 2,663 construction projects to the Construction Ministry, which put 2,527 up for tender and completed 163 on its own.

Those 163 projects were worth approximately 95 billion kyats and accounted for 75 percent of the projects’ combined value of 130 billion kyats.

Lower House lawmaker U Tin Naing Tun of Yangon’s Seikkyi Kanaungto Township questioned the Construction Ministry’s policy of awarding itself the most lucrative contracts.

“I would like to ask the concerned ministry to answer transparently why it implemented the big university and college construction projects on its own without inviting tenders,” U Tin Naing Tun said.

Lawmaker Dr. Thet Thet Khaing of Dagon Township accused the Construction Ministry of failing to set strict terms and conditions in its contracts with tender winners.

Taking advantage of the fact that they can only be sued under civil law when disputes arise with clients, many contractors use substandard materials in the construction process to maximize their returns, she said.

“Contracts lack provisions under which harsh actions can be taken against contractors. And concerned departments do not have the experts needed to bring legal proceedings. This weakness is not the result of ignorance; it is clearly negligence,” Daw Thet Thet Khaing said.

She urged the Union Parliament to press the government to take responsibility for school construction projects that are not completed on schedule or result in poor quality school buildings.

Lawmakers called on the Construction Ministry to strictly follow the tender procedures issued by the President’s Office in future projects, conduct field inspection of construction sites, properly prepare contracts and take harsh action against corrupt officials and contract-breaking tender winners.

A total of 2,580 projects were approved for the Education Ministry in fiscal 2017-18, but only 25 percent of them were completed on schedule. The remaining 75 percent are behind schedule.

This is the second parliamentary rebuke to the Construction Ministry in two weeks. On Aug. 6, lawmakers criticized its poor oversight of road construction projects implemented under the BOT (build, operate, transfer) system.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.