Nepal | April 03, 2020

PAC directs NEA to reevaluate claim of Chameliya tunnel work

Pushpa Raj Acharya

KATHMANDU: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Legislature-Parliament has instructed Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) to reevaluate the claim amount submitted by the contractor of Chameliya Hydropower Project for the tunnel widening work.

Chinese firm Gezhouba Water and Power Company — the contractor of Chameliya Hydropower Project — had claimed Rs 1.09 billion to widen the 843-metre long tunnel. PAC had ordered NEA, a year ago, to withhold the payment due to doubts there could have been corruption involved as there was significant cost variation.

As the contractor had halted work citing delay in payment, PAC has now paved the way to begin construction works of the project. Meanwhile, PAC also conducted a study of the project through its subcommittee that submitted a report regarding anomalies in procurement process and cost variation.

NEA has made 82 interim payments so far since construction of the project started in 2007. Though PAC is still scrutinising the anomalies it has said that the recent directive it has issued will pave the way for the contractor to resume construction works.

“NEA can reevaluate the contractor’s claim by mobilising its engineers before releasing the payment,” said Janardan Sharma, chairman of PAC. As per him, the parliamentary panel was mulling over establishing an independent commission as proposed by the Ministry of Energy — line ministry of NEA — to reevaluate the claim, but it would be time-consuming.

The NEA board, led by the energy minister, had decided to release the payment to the contractor a year ago but it was halted after the PAC stepped in and the issue is yet to be resolved.

The cost of the 30 megawatt project located in Darchula district of the Far Western Development Region has already crossed Rs 540 million per megawatt. NEA had made an early estimation of Rs 270 million per megawatt.

Lawmakers at the PAC meeting, today, said that cost variation is a problem in almost all contracts that are awarded to Chinese firms.

A segment of lawmakers representing the Far Western Development Region stressed on the resumption of construction works. Lawmaker Ganesh Singh Thagunna, who represents the region, said that PAC should have given a deadline for the project to be completed and continued inspecting its progress instead of putting a halt to construction works.

Almost 94 per cent of the works of the project has already been completed and power commission from the project would be possible by March 2016. “The contractor so far has widened 611 metres of the 843-metre tunnel,” said Mukesh Raj Kafle, managing director of NEA.

“The tunnel of the Chameliya project had to be widened as it had become narrower due to mud flowing into the tunnel,” informed Rajendra Manandhar, project chief of Chameliya, adding that the tunnel’s diameter needed to be expanded to 5.2 metres.

The project had been expected to be completed by 2011 when construction works started in 2007.

A version of this article appears in print on June 29, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.

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