KUKL efficacy in doubt

Kathmandu, November 29

Kathmandu Valley denizens hoping for an end to all their drinking water-related woes may not get the respite they hope for with the long-awaited Melamchi Drinking Water Project expected to be completed by September or October next year.

This is because some crucial decisions that need to taken through the board of Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Ltd (KUKL) has been stalled since long. The public-private partnership company is the authorised body to handle the management of drinking water and waste water in the Valley.

Some crucial issues like injecting fresh capital in the company, recruitment of staff, and amendment of the Articles of Association have been pending since long as the board of directors meeting has not been held for a long time, thereby affecting the service delivery of KUKL. Most importantly, the KUKL needs to hire more technical staff — engineers, overseers, pump operators, plant operators, and senior-level management staffers including deputy general manager — as the company will need to handle around 170 million litres of water every day after the completion of Melamchi Project.

“We need to recruit senior-level and technical staff as well as additional capital for implementation of Melamchi Project, but need a go-ahead from the board for this purpose,” said Mahesh Bhattarai, general manager of KUKL.

However, the board meeting has not been held as the board chairman has been out of the country since last few months. Currently, Suresh Kumar Basnet, former president of Nepal Chamber of Commerce (NCC) which has nine per cent stake in KUKL, is the chairperson of the board. The government, municipalities of Kathmandu Valley, private sector (Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, NCC, and Bhaktapur and Lalitpur Chambers of Commerce) own the major portion of equity of the company, while five per cent is allocated to the employees.

The board of directors meeting has not been called since long and it is reported that Basnet is currently living in Australia. Even the annual general meeting (AGM) of KUKL has not been held since the past two consecutive years — 2013-14 and 2014-15.

While there is a provision that states the AGM for the past year needs to be held within six months from the end of that fiscal, one of the board members of KUKL informed that necessary measures like appointment of the auditor to conduct the AGM has not been carried out while the deadline to conclude the AGM of fiscal 2015-16 is also expiring in less than two months.

After his appointment as chairman of KUKL board in 2014, Basnet had amended the Articles of Association of the company and inserted a provision for unlimited tenure of the company’s board. The provision was later amended so that the board would be reshuffled every year through its AGM.

“Basnet has time and again shown his high-handedness in appointment of managers and was also allegedly involved in political lobbying to change the general manager as well,” a confidential source at the Ministry of Water Supply and Sanitation said.

Majority of board members, frustrated with the activities of the board chairman, had filed a no-confidence motion against him in May 2015 to remove him from the post. In retaliation, Basnet had knocked on the doors of Supreme Court stating the board members were ganging up against him and the case is pending in the court.