There is a controversy brewing at the Ministry of Finance over the construction of the 26 km access road to the Melamchi Drinking Water Project. Even as ministry officials remain divided over which company should be awarded the contract to build the road, it is doubtful whether the project itself will be completed on schedule. Eleven companies had bid for the $463 million contract. While some finance ministry officials want to award the contract to Koneko, a South Korean company, others say it should go to Marusin Cita, a Japanese firm. But technicians at the project say it would be \'unfortunate' for Nepal if either of the companies got the contract. "It is clear," they say, "from the past working style of both companies." The Korean company, which is trying hard to get the contract, was involved in the big scandal related to the Mahakali Irrigation Plan. Once the case of corruption was established, the Public Accounts Committee of the Lower House directed the Council of Ministers on 13 July, 2000 to take stern action against the company. It is regretful that the government has ignored the parliamentary committee's directions and is preparing to hand over such a big project to the same company.
The status of the Japanese company, which is also going out of its way to get the contract, is even stranger. The company, which doesn't even have an office in Nepal, has already sold the technical equipment required to complete such a project to the Pashupati Construction Company for Rs 40 million. If such a company were to get the contract, it's not difficult to imagine what will happen to the project.