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ISLAMABAD: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to complete the investigation into the Nandipur power project and file a reference in the accountability court in two months.

Since 2012, NAB has been investigating the Nandipur power project scam which resulted in a Rs113 billion loss to the national exchequer.

In May this year, the bureau held the law ministry responsible for the scam when Babar Awan was the federal law minister in the previous PPP government.

PAC chairman wants reference filed with accountability court in two months

In June this year, Mr Awan switched loyalty and joined the PTI and expressed the apprehension that the PML-N government might implicate him in some NAB reference.

In 2012, the Supreme Court had taken up a petition filed by Khawaja Asif against delays in the project that increased its cost. The court then constituted a commission to determine the delays and subsequent loss to the national exchequer.

On Thursday, NAB director Masood Alam informed the PAC that the bureau had completed its inquiry and forwarded the report to the executive board meeting seeking approval for an investigation.

While PAC Chairman Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah and some other members wanted NAB to share some details about the findings with them, Shafqat Mehmood of the PTI diverted the discussion by asking some general knowledge questions from the NAB official.

Mr Alam told the committee that after investigation NAB would file a reference in the accountability court in four months. Mr Shah, however, directed NAB to file the reference in two months.

As per NAB’s briefing to the committee, the cost of the project increased by billions of rupees because of a two-year delay in the commencement of the work.

The bureau said the law ministry did not give a post-facto legal opinion on the agreement related to financing for the power project, and the file was stuck with the ministry from April 7, 2009, to Aug 24, 2011. Subsequently, the cost of the project escalated.

As per the audit report, the power project was scheduled to be completed on April 16, 2011, at a cost of Rs22.334.7 billion.

The audit estimated that the escalation of cost caused a loss of Rs35.04 billion, blockage of Rs7.32 billion revenue and additional demurrage charges of over Rs1 billion.

Neelum-Jhelum hydro power project

Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) Chairman retired Lt-Gen Muzammil Hussain informed the PAC that the Neelum-Jhelum hydro power plant would start operation by February 1 and by April next year it would be able to generate 969 megawatt electricity.

He said the plant would earn $360 million per annum. The project was conceived in 2005 with an estimated cost of Rs84 billion. However, the cost gradually increased to Rs500 billion.

Mr Hussain said after the October 2005 earthquake, the project was redesigned due to which its cost increased manifold.

He said infrastructure, including installation of 425 towers and stringing for distribution of electricity, had been completed and the filling of tunnels would start by October and the water would be released for electricity generation by January 2018.

PAC to clear backlog

In order to clear the six-year backlog, the PAC chairman divided the audit reports among four subcommittees.

He assigned the audit reports of 2012-2013 to Shahida Akhtar Ali, 2013-2014 to Sardar Ashiq Hussain Gopang, 2014-2015 to Syed Naveed Qamar and 2015-2016 to Shafqat Mehmood’s committees.

He said the audit reports of 2016-2017 be produced before the main committee of the PAC. He passed these directions during the scrutiny of an audit para of the ministry of water and power. The audit report claimed that the national exchequer suffered Rs3.1 billion loss “due to non-utilisation of power plants.”

According to the audit report, two units of 50 MW each remained idle since April 12, 2007, and June 18, 2008, respectively.

An inquiry into the matter showed that Wapda officers namely Mohammad Alam Awan, the then general manager thermal, and project directors Mohammad Qasim Sheikh and A. Habib Siddiqui were responsible for the non-operation of the units.

The PAC was informed that one of the officers had died while the others had retired. Therefore, the authority is unable to proceed against them.

Mr Shah directed the audit officials to produce the recent audit reports before the PAC as the scrutiny of such an outdated audit paras was of no use.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2017