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LAHORE: What needs to be probed in Nandipur power plant failure is how a Furnace Oil Treatment Plant (FOTP) of smaller capacity arrived in the presence of Nespak, the engineering consultant of the project.

Who estimated quantum of furnace oil for the 425MW plant and its filtration requirements, who calculated the size of the plant, what size was communicated to the manufacturer (General Electric, or GE) and who accepted the plant of much less capacity, wonder energy experts and members of the Board of Directors, which took charge barely four months ago when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had already been misled into inaugurating an incomplete plant.

“It is the stuff for a case study of how one could achieve a stupendous collective failure,” says a board member.

The ministry of water and power failed to take charge of the plant and cravenly gave in to political clout of younger brother of the prime minister, and is now belatedly accepting responsibility. The ministry of petroleum failed because impurities in oil are far beyond the permissible level, which has blown the FOTP’s requirement out of proportion.

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N failed as a party because it allowed a “totally irrelevant man (the chief minister of Punjab) to hijack the construction of the plant”.

The chief minister failed because he installed a bureaucrat not only as managing director but also a project director who is supposed to have been a professional engineer. And the project director failed because of incompetence and greed. The net result was a national embarrassment, the board member concluded.

The size of the FOTP was only realised when the plant had already been inaugurated by the prime minister, says a former managing director of the Pakistan Electric Power Company. Fresh and more components for the treatment plants were ordered which took another three months to arrive. To make matters worse, even those components were found defective, or at least, not the right ones needed for the plant. That is why the plant is still not running. This is criminal to say the least, both on part of the consultant and the project director, he claimed.

“The MD tried to shift the blame in June when he pleaded for subletting operation and maintenance (O&M) to a Malaysian company, but the board refused. Then he tried to sublet the same to a US company, which had supplied three machines but the board again put its foot down and said that it was the state of the art plant – completely computerised which hardly needs outsourcing at exorbitant price.”

The outsourcing bid is designed to hide two things: administrative and professional incompetence and returning personal favour, claims another board member. The managing director did not get affidavits and guarantees bonds from the employees who were trained in China.

“After training, all freshly trained employees went back to their original seats as they were not (administratively) bound by the MD through affidavits and bonds. So, there was no one to take care of the plant. To make the matter worse, the MD himself went to the US for training by GE – a session designed for professional engineers. It was thus necessary to sublet the O&M and escape the results of mismanagement and personal favours,” he concluded.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2015

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