Contractor accuses Education dept of declining payment for school construction
Phuri Sherpa, a local contractor, addressing a press conference at Journalist Union of Sikkim office.

Gangtok: Phuri Sherpa, a local contractor entrusted with the construction of Rongli Secondary School under Pakyong district, has alleged the education department of non-payment of dues for the construction project.

Sherpa, who finished the first phase of the allotted work in March earlier this year, claimed that the officials kept dilly-dallying over the payment.

The contractor said, “The Education Department issued a tender notice for 105 school buildings in September 2021. In January 2022, the work order was provided. However, after completing the first phase of work in March 2022, the accounts section of the Education department said there is no money right now. If the department doesn’t have money then why do they issue tender notice for new work?”

Sherpa, after not getting her payment, filed an RTI against the Education department. “After an RTI, I found that Rs 8 crore from the allocated budget was already distributed in an uneven manner. Some of the contractors, without the completion of even 50% of the work, were given half of the allotted money. Likewise, there are a few contractors who are not paid even a single penny for the work.”

Lashing out at the state bureaucracy, she claimed that they were making a fool of the government. She said, “I am also a wife of a government servant and they are paid to work for us. But when we visit the office during office hours the employees are not in the office. They solicit money in order to get our bills approved. There is no denying that such corrupt practices are still prevalent. If someone like me refuses to agree to their monetary demands, my file for payment doesn’t get approval.”

Sherpa asserted, “If the department keeps fooling contractors like us, we will be compelled to carry out a hunger strike and protest if necessary. I suppose that is the only way we can get our due payment.”

Highlighting the condition of Rongli School, she stated, “The school is in a landslide-prone area. There are no classrooms for students due to which we contractors and workers are under pressure for the completion of the work at the earliest. We are helpless as we have put all our money into the work, and until the department doesn’t release the bill then the work will not be completed.”

She informed that contractors are facing difficulties in returning the overdraft borrowed from the banks. Welcoming the new Public Demands Recovery Bill, she said, “The recovery bill is a welcome step taken by the government to recover loan amounts taken by the public. But even though the government has come up with such an Act, people like us who are keen on repaying loans cannot repay as the payment order is yet to be approved. I feel that now is the time for the department to release all its pending bills so that we can return the money that we owe to the bank.”

The State Education Department, however, has refused to comment on the issue until a thorough investigation is carried out against the allegations made by contractor Phuri Sherpa.

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