Chameliya irregularities: House panel to summon CIAA to inquire about probe

Chameliya PowerhouseKATHMANDU, APR 11 – The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament on Friday decided to summon the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority to inquire about its probe on the alleged embezzlement of hefty funds allocated for the development of the 30-megawatt Chameliya Hydropower Project.

The decision was reached after a number of lawmakers expressed their dissatisfaction at the slow pace of probe into the case. The PAC, in December last year, had directed the government and the CIAA to take action against those involved in misappropriating the funds within 10 days.

In the PAC meeting on Friday, lawmakers stressed the need for summoning CIAA representatives to inquire about the progress made in the matter. A team from the PAC which carried out an investigation into one of the five variations of the project a few months ago had found that cost was increased by millions of rupees in the name of tunnel redesigning.

“The committee has not set a date to summon the CIAA,” said PAC Secretary Som Bahadur Thapa. “The date will be decided officially soon.” The committee had asked the corruption watchdog to form a separate panel to probe all the variations.

An investigation from the PAC led by Rajendra KC, a Nepali Congress lawmaker, had found that around Rs550 million was misused in variation order No 6 alone. In July last year, the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) board approved the biggest variation order of Rs1.09 billion to China Gezhouba Water and Power (Group) for tunnel squeezing treatment work.

“It’s been long since we asked the CIAA to conduct a probe but it has made no progress,” said NC lawmaker Dhana Raj Gurung, who asked PAC Chairman Janardan Sharma to summon CIAA representatives for an inquiry.

The lawmakers also expressed their concerns about the halt in construction saying that the PAC had directed to carry on with the works despite the probe. According to KC, around 95 percent of the work has been over with the remaining electro-mechanical job assigned to a South Korean company. The irregularities were found in the civil works carried out by the Chinese company.

The PAC study had found that the cost of construction materials, manpower and equipment were highly inflated and that the NEA board had approved Variation Order 6 of the contractor, bypassing the Variation Review Committee under the Project Development Department. The NEA has already paid more than Rs2.5 billion in variation orders to project contractors. The committee had reviewed claims of five previous variation orders. The developer, NEA, has made payments to six variation orders to the contractor so far.

With a massive rise in the variation order, the project cost has now spiraled to Rs 15.06 billion from the initial Rs 8.49 billion. At an estimated cost of Rs500 million per MW, the project is set to become the costliest ever undertaken by the NEA.

Source : eKantipur