Energy minister tells CIAA to mind its own business

    Minister for Energy, Radha Gyawali
    Minister for Energy, Radha Gyawali

    KATHMANDU, NOV 05 – Energy Minister Radha Gyawali said on Tuesday that the ministry was fully capable of dealing with its affairs and did not want intervention by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA).

    The minister’s remarks followed highly publicized moves by the anti-graft body to cancel the permits of a number of hydropower projects for breach of contract. Addressing the parliamentary Agriculture and Water Resources Committee (AWRC), Gyawali said that state agencies should stay out of each other’s way.

    “I respect the CIAA and its proceedings. However, it should not overstep its jurisdiction,” said Gyawali, adding that a power-deficit country should not have to face the consequences of any kind of intervention by any kind of state agency.

    The anti-graft body has directed the ministry to cancel more than a dozen hydropower projects including Kabeli-A for failing to sign power purchase agreements (PPA) with the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) and completing the financial closure in time.

    Putting obstacles before the Kabeli-A project will only prolong its completion date, Gyawali said. She admitted that government agencies including the NEA and the Department of Electricity Development (DoED) also exhibited incompetence leading to delays in project preparation.

    “Even though we have tried to expedite things, they have not been moving ahead efficiently. This too has prevented projects from completing their tasks on time,” Gyawali said. Power developers have been blaming government agencies for delays in developing projects such as the NEA’s not signing PPAs on time.

    Energy Secretary Rajendra Kishore Kshatri said that only the energy secretary has the right to award licences or terminate them legally. “The CIAA pulled the files of Kabeli and another one dozen hydropower projects and directed us to terminate the licences. Though the decision came without consulting us, I am not in a capacity to question the decision of the anti-graft body,” Kshatri said.

    He urged the AWRC to tell the CIAA to review its decision. “If this happens, we will prepare a position paper regarding the issue.”

    Meanwhile, Kumar Pandey, the general secretary of the Independent Power Producers Association Nepal (IPPAN), said that a majority of private sector developers had been compelled to face the consequences of the inefficiency of government agencies. A representative of Terhathum Power Company, which has been implementing a project on the Khorunga River, said they had not been able to sign a PPA as the NEA has not held a board meeting on the issue.

    He added that on July 24, the NEA had told his company to come to sign a PPA by mid-September. On August 28, company representatives reached the NEA to sign the PPA after fulfilling the necessary requirements only to find that the CIAA had seized all the documents.

    “Again on October 29, the NEA published a public notice asking us to come for the PPA. This is how the government mechanism functions,” he said.

    A majority of lawmakers stated that the CIAA’s intervention would demoralize hydropower developers and that the country’s aim to end load-shedding might be unfulfilled.

    “The CIAA has placed itself against development. The anti-graft body should clarify its stand,” said lawmaker Anand Prasad Pokhrel. Another lawmaker Amrit Kumar Bohara said that the CIAA should review its decision.

    However, CIAA chief Lok Man Singh Karki has defended the anti-graft body’s actions by

    tweeting that its intervention in hydropower projects fell under its jurisdiction as per the Interim Constitution.

    “Except as stated in Art 120(2) of the Interim Constitution & Sec 4(b) of CIAA Act, the commission has the jurisdiction to investigate,” he posted on Twitter. “To act as per the prescribed conditions in the permit & law, of some hydro power projects is within the jurisdiction of CIAA.”

    AWRC tells CIAA to explain its actions

    The Agriculture and Water Resources Committee (AWRC) of the Legislative-Parliament on Tuesday summoned the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) to explain its recent intervention in the hydropower sector.

    The directive followed a discussion by the Ministry of Energy (MoE), Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), Department of Electricity Development (DoED) and independent power producers regarding the CIAA’s direction to terminate the licences of over a dozen hydropower projects. “Following the discussion, we felt that the MoE holds the jurisdiction of giving or seizing the licence of a particular company. The MoE should not keep quiet,” said AWRC Chairperson Gagan Thapa. He has asked the CIAA to participate in the committee’s next meeting.

    Likewise, the AWRC has also directed the MoE to register the bills related with the electricity act and regulation at Parliament by mid-January, 2015. The House panel told the DoED to prepare status reports of all the 547 licensed hydropower developers, update them every three months and also make them accessible to all by putting them in the public domain.

    Source : eKantipur