KATHMANDU, Sept 29
The Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC) has been found to have provided customs waiver on import of old battery containers to Cooline Battery Industries violating the standards it had formulated. Cooline received such waiver in connivance of AEPC officials even after the deadline for import of goods as per the old standards expired.
“We imported a total of 46,000 battery containers of varying capacities,” Managing Director of Cooline Rajendra Bahadur Karki conceded. “The battery containers were imported with customs waiver for consumption of the old raw materials that were already imported for use in solar system of grant,” he elaborated. A total of 47,000 sets were imported in that lot, according to him, while a maximum of 25,000 sets would be imported in other lots. Executive Director of AEPC Dr Govinda Raj Pokharel stated that permission for import with customs waiver was provided as the Letter of Credit (LC) was already opened for import of the battery containers. “We gave permission for import with customs waiver as we cannot ban import of goods after LC is opened,” he reasoned. “We took the decision as the Finance Ordinance also directs to provide discounts in import of raw materials,” he argued. AEPC had written to all the companies involved in sale and manufacture of solar equipment on May 27 to stop import of goods as per the old standards despite Pokharel’s claims that the waiver was given as per the Finance Ordinance. “Hardly 100,000 solar systems are sold in a year,” an AEPC staffer said requesting anonymity. “The fact that a single company was allowed to import 47,000 battery containers with customs waiver in a single lot is a strong evidence of financial irregularities,” the staffer stated and added that there have been irregularities in the solar system of grant due to the conflict between the battery importers and manufacturers.
AEPC had reviewed the standards after implementing the Nepal Rural and Renewable Energy Program (NRREP) and directed to import goods only as per the new standards. While Nepal Photovoltaic Quality Assurance (NEPQA) 2009 was implemented previously, AEPC decided to implement NEPQA 2013 from May 27. The NEPQA 2013 standards mention that stock verification of old goods tested by the Renewable Energy Test Station (RETS) will be done allowing them to be sold, but import of new goods will be stopped. Import of materials required for solar system was completely stopped immediately after this decision. But AEPC had allowed Cooline to import raw materials and produce batteries even after that. AEPC had done stock verification of over 19,000 non-existing batteries of Cooline.
AEPC had banned even import of batteries of other brands from March 27 to the first week of August to maintain monopoly of Cooline in the market. AEPC had directed the companies to clear the stock of old goods imported as per the NEPQA standards by mid-August along with that decision. But AEPC has extended the deadline of clearing the stock to mid-November following intense pressure from the organization of businessmen who sell solar equipment. AEPC is again preparing to extend the deadline for clearing the stock to December end following pressure from the businessmen. AEPC had implemented new standards for solar batteries along with NRREP. New 23 ampere high-quality batteries instead of previously used 35 ampere batteries have to be used as per the new standards. The companies provided claim details of goods imported for the previous program but were not sold, and AEPC also consented to verify the goods that were kept for sale at different places and branches of the companies. The companies then got stock verification done even for the goods that were already installed, and received opportunity to produce/import new goods and sell them in the market.
Source : Karobar