NEA staffers seek ‘extra money’ for power connection

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    KATHMANDU, DEC 23 –

    Surya Nepal, a subsidiary of ITC India, is working round the clock to bring its Tanahun-based cigarette plant into operation by the next year. The new plant, set up with an investment of about Rs 240 million, is expected to employ over 300 individuals.

    However, the company is struggling to get power connection from the Nepal Electricity Authority ( NEA ). NEA ’s distribution centre in Tanahun turned down its proposal for a 1500-KV line connection. “ NEA officials in Tanahun told us they could not provide electricity connection, citing the lack of power in the national grid,” said Ravi KC, corporate vice president of Surya Nepal.

    The company is now preparing to table the proposal at NEA ’s central office. “The first prerequisite for any factory to come into operation is energy,” said KC.

    “How could an investor bring in investment to a place, where the government cannot even provide basic infrastructure like electricity?”

    Industrialists complain they have to bribe the NEA staff to get electricity connection in their new factories/plants. “Often times, we have been asked for extra money by the NEA staff,” said an industrialist.

    Sources say NEA distribution centres at charge Rs 1,200 per KV, while installing electricity in any industrial unit illegally. “Earlier, the rate was Rs 1,000 per KV,” they said.

    One leading business house with interest in pharmaceuticals, cement and finance, was compelled to pay a hefty amount to NEA officials for getting electricity connection for its cement factory in the Eastern Nepal. “It took us more than four months to get the connection,” said the industrialist.

    “Although we had applied for the facility some six months ago,NEA connected the energy line a couple of months ago.”

    Not only while getting new electricity connection, but also while upgrading the existing electric capacity, industries are required to pay extra money to the NEA staff.

    A Birgunj-based industrialist termed the collection money with industries while connecting electricity line ‘unannounced law’.

    According to him, such illegal practices were rampant in major industrial hubs like Birgunj, Biratnagar and Bhairahawa.

    According to him, not only big industries, even small mills that require some 20-30 KV line also are compelled to ‘please’ NEA ’s  regional officials. “We have no options, but to make the ‘illegal payment’ to get energy,” he said.

    NEA officials, however, said no such monetary bargaining has taken place while installing electricity lines in industrial units.

    Upendra Dev Bhatta, general manager of Distribution and Consumer Services Division of NEA , said as electricity generation is limited, the power utility faces difficulties in supplying electricity, particularly to big industries that have big requirement.

    “Due to this fact, the officials might have shown negligence to install power lines,” he said. “However, we have not received any cases of corruption so far.”

    Bhatta, however, committed to take stern action against any officials involved in such fowl game.

    Source : The Kathmandu Post