Ministry takes opposite decisions on single issue

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    • Fate of 14 hydel projects

    Ministry of EnergyKATHMANDU, FEB 23 – “How can the decisions be so different?” asked Gagan Thapa, chairman of the parliamentary Agriculture and Water Resource Committee (AWRC) on Sunday, hinting at the contrasting decisions of the energy minister and secretary regarding the fate of the 14 hydropower projects whose licences had been marked for cancellation by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA).

    As Energy Minister Radha Gyawali and Secretary Rajendra Kishore Kshatri kept staring, Thapa elaborated on the issue saying that the parliamentary committee he has been leading received contradictory responses regarding its query about the projects. As per the first response, the licences of all the hydropower projects apart from Kabeli A had been cancelled as directed by the CIAA and the second response stated that a number of meetings at the Energy Ministry had decided to take the issue to the Cabinet to hand over the licences to the same developers whose licences were supposed to have been scrapped.

    “How can a minister seek amnesty for the projects through the Cabinet when their licences have already been terminated by the secretary?” Thapa said, adding that the parliamentary committee held the right to seek justification on what grounds the licences had been terminated and on what grounds the file of certain projects had been taken to the Cabinet. Of the 13 hydropower projects, Gyawali has tabled the files of nine projects at the Cabinet asking it to allow the same developers to hold the licences.

    In response, Gyawali said that her and the secretary’s decisions turned out to be different since she could move against the CIAA’s directive as a politician. “For a bureaucrat, it was difficult to go against the CIAA’s directive,” Gyawali said.

    “I am a politician, and I have battled with different regimes from time to time for the sake of the country. The decision to give amnesty to nine projects is based on a deep study, analysis and situation the country is facing due to a power crunch.”

    According to Gyawali, the files of those developers who have made progress and spent millions to develop the projects were  taken to the cabinet for amnesty, stating that the Nepal Electricity Authority’s (NEA) not signing PPAs with those projects was mainly responsible for their failure to conclude the financial closure.

    Meanwhile, Kshatri said, “I have been saying time and again that the CIAA directive for me is mandatory. I also consulted with senior lawyers who advised the same to me. Everyone looks for his comfort first, and I did the same in this case.” He added that the developers could have gone to court if they thought the decision was wrong.

    According to Kshatri, though he was aware of the minister’s decision, he did not participate in the process of taking the matter to the Cabinet. “There was no involvement of mine. I was not in Nepal at the time when the matter was taken to the Cabinet,” Kshatri clarified. A number of lawmakers said off the record that the two different decisions were meant to show that the CIAA directive had been implemented and, at the same time, that measures had been taken to allow the same developers to go ahead with the project.

    The CIAA is not authorised to review Cabinet decisions. In a recent appearance at the parliamentary committee meeting, CIAA Chief Commissioner Lok Man Singh had complained that there had been a growing tendency of taking decisions through the Cabinet to avoid scrutiny by the CIAA.

    Source : The Kathmandu Post