With the directives of the Public Account Committee of the Legislature-Parliament to Nepal Electricity Authority to scrap the contract for the 25-megawatt solar power system, Nepal’s has loss the opportunity to increase the power generation.
Although the meeting of the Committee directed the Authority to cancel the contract stating that the contract process itself was of mala fide intention, it will have a long term implications in Nepal’s power sector.
The NEA, the national power utility, had decided to install solar system at Battar and Devighat of Nuwakot with the objective of developing a mixed power system in the country to end the load shedding.
Supported by the World Bank, it has a capacity of 25 MW. A complaint was filed at the Committee arguing that the contract was given to an applicant who had proposed more cost for the construction of the project instead of giving it to the lowest among the five bidders.
The Committee President Dor Prasad Upadhyay said, “the Committee has directed the NEA to cancel its decision of giving the responsibility of the project to the Pidgeon and Heron JV, and call for new tenders.”
In a divided decision, the majority directed the government owned power monopoly to select the construction company through a new process by cancelling its earlier decision to this regard, citing the decision was found suspicious, controversial and illegal.
With the committee call for scrapping all decisions and initiating a fresh tender process, the solar project is now in limbo. According to some sources, this is merely a game of commission agents who have been taking this or that side.
This is not first time Public Account Committee has been intervening the decision of executives. Thanks to PAC’s directives, Chameliya Project was delayed for almost four years. This increases the cost and time of the project.
However, the NEA management has argued that the lowest bidding company was technically not sound according to the assessment carried out by an independent experts group.
However, Mukesh Raj Kafle, former executive director at NEA said that the Pingao and Heron JV itself was suitable. Meanwhile, NEA Executive Director Kulman Ghising assured that he was ready to undergo and bear any sort of action if any kind of irregularities were proved in the bidding process for the construction of the solar power system.
But the lawmakers had opined that the contract should be awarded to the lowest bidder as per the Public Procurement Act and the existing financial provisions. They further demanded action against the then Energy Minister and the NEA Executive Director who were involved in the decision process.
Some lawmakers proposed that the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) should be called in to investigate into the entire process, suspecting irregularities of millions of rupees in the tender process.
Lawmakers Ramhari Khatiwada, Bharat Shah, Dhanraj Gurung, Pashupati Chaulagain and Ananda Pokharel had suggested this in the meeting. These lawmakers are in or others are associated with power sector.
Similarly, lawmakers Meena Pun and Rupa Maharjan said that while taking action against NEA leadership may create negative impact as the leadership had played important role to reduce the power shortage.