Former ministers slam govt on power projects, aircraft deal

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    KATHMANDU, DEC 05 –

    Former finance and energy ministers have slammed the government’s three recent moves — to upgrade the Upper Trishuli hydro project, set up a diesel plant and buy aircraft from China.

    Ministry of EnergyThe six former ministers, most of them belonging to the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML, said on Tuesday that the government’s decision was ‘illegal’, ‘inappropriate’ and ‘guided by vested interests’.

    A meeting of the three former finance ministers, Surendra Pandey, Ram Saran Mahat and Prakash Chandra Lohani, and three former energy ministers, Prakash Sharan Mahat, Pradeep Nepal and Gokarna Bista, decided to submit a memorandum to President Ram Baran Yadav against the government’s plan. “All these plans have been made one-sidedly and ignore the country’s laws when there is no Parliament and constitutional bodies,” said Pandey.

    According to Pandey, upgrading the Upper Trishuli 3A from 60 to 90 MW and setting up an 80 MW diesel plant would only serve the interest of certain people, not the country. Chinese contractor China Gezhouba Group Co has been pressing the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) to upgrade the project’s capacity ever since securing the contract. Former energy ministers Mahat, Bista and Posta Bahadur Bogati had all rejected its demand. However, the current leadership at the Energy Ministry seems to be keen on agreeing with the contractor.

    Meanwhile, the government has invited tenders for the purchase of an 80 MW diesel plant to ease the power shortage during the winter. More than a dozen firms have shown interest in installing the plant.

    Former energy minister Bista said that building a diesel plant does not make sense when the government has not been able to operate the two existing multi-fuel plants.

    “It will only result in huge losses for the country,” added Bista. He also said that similar plans to buy a diesel plant in the past had been twice rejected by Parliament and the then Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

    Former finance minister Mahat, during whose tenure the Upper Trishuli 3A project was conceived, said that the existing EPC contract (engineering, procurement and construction) signed with China Gezhouba Group Co does not allow any changes. “In such contracts, the payment agreed upon is higher than for other contract models,” he added. “But the government and the contractor enticed by commission are making efforts to go against the norms of the agreement and national laws.”

    He said that if the project’s capacity is enhanced, it would cost another Rs 4 billion and result in a delay of 15 months.

    “On the one hand, the government is planning to buy such an expensive diesel plant on the pretext of reducing load-shedding,” said Pradeep Nepal. “On the other hand, it is derailing a project that is under construction which means aggravating the energy crisis.”

    According to Nepal, the controversies surrounding Upper Trishuli 3A mean the project will not be completed on schedule. “It will encourage the contractor to claim the delay fee from the government, causing a huge loss to it.”

    The Chinese company, which initially quoted Rs 2 billion to upgrade the project by 30 MW, has now doubled the price to Rs 4 billion.

    Meanwhile, the former ministers said there was also something fishy in the government’s plan to buy four aircraft from AVIC International of China. According to them, the government has been trying to buy the planes without following procedure like inviting tenders as it would be getting another two as gifts.

    Source : The Kathmandu Post