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ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Thursday claimed that the Ministry of Water and Power and the Ministry of Law and Justice were responsible for delay in the completion of the Nandipur power project and for its eventual cost escalation.

Briefing a subcommittee of the Senate Standing Committee on Water and Power, NAB DG Operations Zahir Shah said that the law ministry had raised objections to the agreement signed by the power ministry from 2008 to 2011 and the issue was resolved after the ministers for the two ministries were removed.

The subcommittee headed by Senator Nauman Wazir expressed concern over delay in the inquiry being conducted by NAB. During the proceedings it was pointed out that the law ministry had delayed vetting of the agreement on the Nandipur power project.

Senator Wazir observed: “The committee feels that the law minister of that time Senator Babar Awan was responsible for the deliberate delays of around three years that caused an enormous loss amounting to around Rs113 billion to the nation, besides delaying the power project.”

He said that Mr Awan and federal secretaries during the period from 2008 to 2012 needed to come to the committee and clarify their position.

Senator Wazir recalled that the law ministry had delayed the vetting of the agreement for around three years and that it was done within days after the Supreme Court took notice of it.

However, he criticised NAB officials for delay in finalising the inquiry report as it was forwarded to them in 2013 and the report was far from being complete even after four years.

However, the NAB officials blamed officials of the law ministry for the delay and told the committee that relevant officers in the ministry from 2008 to 2012 were currently working as judges in various parts of the country and had been unresponsive.

“The delay by the law ministry was because of their stance that the originally vetted agreement was different from the one signed between Pakistan and China, the NAB DG Operations said: “Later it was approved as both the ministers were changed and Mr Naveed Qamar took charge as the Minister for Water and Power, while Mr Maula Bux Chandio took charge as Law Minister.”

The briefing further confused the subcommittee as Mr Shah said that a query had been forwarded to the Establishment Division seeking information if post-facto approvals could be granted or not.

“We have failed to find relevant rules that allow post-facto approvals, but the Establishment Division has not responded to our letter written in December 2016,” he said.

The subcommittee also discussed causes of the resurgence of circular debt and Water and Power Secretary Younas Dhaga said that there were flaws in the determination method applied by Nepra.

“The main flaw was calculating methods; first of all, there cannot be 100 per cent recovery of bills in Pakistan, secondly the T&D losses cannot be reduced to 13.5 per cent from the current 19-20 per cent, and the last issue was delays in payment of subsidy amount by the government,” the secretary said.

Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2017