Energy Ministry, ADB trade charges over consultant at Tanahun hydro

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    Ministry of EnergyKATHMANDU, DEC 23 – Energy Secretary Rajendra Kishore Kshatri said on Monday that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) had been told to look for a consultant for the 140 MW Tanahun Hydropower Project itself after it questioned the ability of Nepali personnel to evaluate the competency of applicants regarding sedimentation flushing.

    Subsequently, the ADB selected a joint-venture between Germany’s Lahmeyer International and Canada’s Manitoba Hydro as the project’s consultant. However, the Energy Ministry was not satisfied with the choice as the firm had little experience in sedimentation flushing, and it cancelled the appointment process leaving the fate of the project hanging in the balance. Sedimentation flushing is a process of removing clay deposits in the reservoir.

    The ADB said that it selected the German-Canadian joint venture based on its holistic merits including proficiency in the areas of tendering, construction supervision and operational maintenance.

    The ADB has charged the Energy Ministry of cancelling the consultant appointment process by focusing on the consultant’s little experience in sedimentation flushing disregarding its expertise in tendering and construction supervision.

    The Energy Ministry said that another bidder Japan’s Kansai Electric Power Company should have been selected as it had greater experience in sedimentation flushing.

    “In fact, the government had to give the ADB the authority to select a consultant after it said that it could not compromise on sedimentation flushing,” Kshatri told a joint meeting of the Development, Agriculture and Water Resources and Finance committees of Parliament.

    On Sunday, a senior ADB official said that it took the job of selecting a consultant as the government would have taken more time to do it. According to Kshatri, the ADB had lobbied hard from 2009 to 2013 to obtain the authority to select the consultant for the project.

    Although a joint review committee consisting of representatives from the Energy Ministry, Finance Ministry and ADB had concluded that there was no firm ground to question the ADB’s selection, Kshatri said that the report had pointed out many flaws in the appointment process.

    The energy secretary also said that he had briefed Prime Minister Sushil Koirala about the facts of the consultant selection process on Friday for 45 minutes. “I have also briefed the parliamentary Agriculture and Water Resources Committee regarding the matter,” he added.

    The ministry’s decision has created uncertainty over the future of the storage-type project whose financial closure was concluded one and a half years ago.

    Although the ADB has not said anything about whether it would still extend financial assistance if its choice of consultant was rejected, a senior Finance Ministry official said that it might pull out of the project.

    Meanwhile, a number of Nepali Congress lawmakers from Tanahun have asked the Prime Minister to intervene in the matter saying that they would raise hell in Parliament if the implementation of the project was not ensured.

    Tanahun lawmaker Shankar Bhandari said the project must move ahead but the energy minister seemed to be making an effort to stop it. “We will not tolerate it and there will be an uproar in Parliament,” he added.

    Source : The Kathmandu Post