Massive irregularities in West Seti MoU: Probe

KATHMANDU, March 26: Members of the parliamentary subcommittee investigating the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on West Seti Hydroelectric Project have confided that they have found massive irregularities in the hasty signing of the MoU with the China Three Gorges Corporation (CTGC) for the project.

“We have found that the Mnistry of Energy (MOE) signed the agreement with CTGC despite sufficient grounds suggesting that Nepal could have built the project on her own,” a member of the committee told Republica on condition of anonymity.

Secretary at the Ministry of Finance Krishna Hari Baskota and Chief Executive Officer of the Nepal Investment Board (NIB) Radhesh Pant have stated that they were not informed, as claimed by the Ministry of Energy (MOE), before the signing of the MoU with CTGC.

Appearing before the probe committee formed by the parliament´s Committee on Natural Resources and Means on Sunday, the two claimed that they were not consulted by the MOE before the MoU was signed, according to sources privy to the hearing.

The MOE in its 18-point answer to the probe committee´s 16-point query had stated, the sources revealed, that MOF and NIB had been informed about the impending agreement with CTGC before the MOU was signed on February 29.

Abuse of authority

MOF sources have confessed that the ministry had written to MOE asking the latter to come up with the loan amount required for the project to start loan negotiations with China Exim Bank. But the MOE did not respond to the MOF letter and instead signed the MoU with CTGC. The probe committee has also deemed that MOE Joint Secretary Arjun Karki abused his authority while signing the MoU.

“Joint Secretary Karki had initiated the file of CTGC and Minister of State for Energy Suryaman Dong had directed him to negotiate with CTGC and come up with a technical proposal,” the lawmaker claimed.

“But he went ahead and signed the MoU with CTGC. Who gave him the authority to sign the MoU that has provision of making loan arrangements on behalf of the Nepal Electricity Authority owned by government?” the lawmaker questioned.

The lawmaker contended that an individual ministry cannot make loan arrangements with foreign countries or foreign financial institutions without consent of the MOF.

“This is not how loan arrangements are made and this can set a dangerous precedent if an individual ministry like MOE is allowed to make loan arrangements independently,” he warned.

Karki, who had signed the MoU with Executive Vice-chairman of CTGC Wang Shofeng on February 29, told that he is just an MOE staffer and obeyed the directives of Minister Posta Bahadur Bogati.

The probe committee also argued that NIB, after its inception, would be automatically attracted to any project of over 500 MW irrespective of any existing law or Act. And the fact that the MOE apparently lied to the probe committee, the member added, in saying that NIB was informed before the signing shows that the MoU was signed with bad intentions.

The probe committee has also not been satisfied with the MOE´s response that the latter ignored the letter of interest by other companies judging that CTGC was best suited for developing the project.

The Committee on Natural Resources and Means had formed the probe committee on March 9 after a majority of the lawmakers who attended its meeting that day questioned the intention behind signing the MoU with CTGC without competitive bidding on Feb 29 after revoking the MOE working procedure of opting for competitive bidding on the same day.

The deadline of the probe committee was extended till May 28 last week after the committee deemed that it requires more time for investigations.by  PREM DHAKAL from Republica

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