KATHMANDU, NOV 08 – The Parliamentary Finance Committee on Friday overruled the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority’s (CIAA) directive to terminate the license of 13 hydropower projects.
The committee has directed the Nepal government, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Energy (MoE) not to implement the CIAA directive, stating the anti-graft body has stepped out of its jurisdiction.
According to the committee’s Chairperson Prakash Jwala, the decision is based on the statement of CIAA Chief Lokman Singh Karki that the ministry concerned is independent to take a decision based on the concerned Act, directive, policy, license and agreement with hydropower projects.
The committee’s decision has given much-needed respite to the projects, including Kabeli A, Bhotekoshi–5, Midim, Upper Mailung, Upper Khorang, Upper Solu, Upper Karuwa, Balefi B, Upper Ingwa, Lower Indrawati, Lower Balefi, Buku Khola and Chahare Khola.
The committee has also directed the line ministry to carry out a study on these projects and make them functional by asking them to fulfill all necessary criteria, if needed. The committee has also told the ministry to terminate licenses of the projects that are just capturing the permits within a month and inform the committee on the development. The committee has directed the government to publish factual details of all the 13 projects as soon as possible.
At the meeting, lawmakers criticised the CIAA functioning beyond its jurisdiction. Lawmaker Surendra Pandey accused CIAA of intervening only in the projects that are on the verge of taking off. “I don’t see the CIAA is trying to curb the tendency of holding the license. It is rather eyeing projects that can offer kickbacks,” Pandey said, adding most of the projects in which the CIAA has intervened have completed jobs like acquiring land, construction of access roads and settling financials. Pandey demanded the officials involved in the process of licensing, monitoring and penalising be investigated.
Lawmaker Keshab Baral said: “There is something going behind the scene.”
After facing severe criticism from the lawmakers for not being able to defend genuine developers, Energy Minister Radha Gyawali said the ministry has not remained mum over the issue and has already formed a committee to study the projects. “I will take this issue to the Cabinet if needed. Hydropower is our national asset and we need to back genuine developers,” she said, adding almost all the 13 projects seem genuine.
She also requested the CIAA to remain within its limitations. “I have heard there are some private sector developers reporting to the CIAA against each other. Such a tendency needs to be discouraged by the private developers themselves,” said Gyawali.
Meanwhile, the CIAA has stated it has not received the committee’s decision. “We will clarify our official stance after receiving the directive,” said CIAA Spokesperson Janardan Sapkota.
Panel refutes CIAA argument
Refuting the argument of Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) Chief Lok Man Singh Karki that the CIAA should be invited to the Parliamentary hearing through the Good Governance and Monitoring Committee as per the Operational Procedure of the Parliament 2013, the Finance Committee has stated all the committees of the Legislative Parliament are sovereign and it has not breached its jurisdiction while inviting the CIAA. The committee added the rule 127 of the Operational Procedure of the Parliament 2013 has given the committees the authority to seek any kinds of documents for the proceedings or invite any person or official, and also ask for statement or record the statement, in case of necessity and that the decision of the committee will be considered as final. “Since the Finance Committee has concerns over all the issues relating with investment, we have not gone beyond our jurisdiction,” said the committee’s Chairperson Prakash Jwala. “As far as our right is concerned, we can summon any one apart from the court, even the Prime Minister.” (PR)
Source : eKantipur