Govt defends award of Mohmand dam contract

Updated January 03, 2019

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Government to launch the Mohman dam project on Jan 13. — File photo
Government to launch the Mohman dam project on Jan 13. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: Defending the contract of the Rs309 billion Mohmand dam awarded to a Descon-led consortium on a single bid basis, the government on Wednesday announced rescheduling the groundbreaking of the project for Jan 13.

Speaking at a news conference marred by boycott by media persons, Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda said the government was going to launch the project on Jan 13 that was earlier scheduled for the first week of this month. He said the controversies being generated around the project on the agenda of international powers by linking it with Descon Engineering and Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood were totally incorrect.

The minister said the country had not been able to build a dam over the past 50-60 years because some people always created problems, adding that the systems put in place by the government did not allow a minister or its subordinate institution to award contracts.

He said he was accountable to the prime minister and the Supreme Court on the legal side but none else and did not like to comment on some social media or newspaper reports. He said Mr Dawood had nothing to do with the contract, nor could he influence the bidding process; he had already resigned from the company and the bidding for the project was held on July 18 even before the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf came to power.

Vawda says PM’s aide Razak Dawood has no link with Descon-led consortium that got contract

Mr Vawda said Descon had only 30 per cent shares in the consortium, adding that bids were evaluated by technical experts comprising Nespak, an Australian company and another foreign firm and the qualified bidder had secured the contract.

“We are independent in this country. The prime minister is independent, the ministry is independent, but even Wapda was not authorised to award a contract,” he said. He said the government would launch and complete the project before the deadline unlike the previous governments that held repeated inaugurations.

Mr Vawda said he was not answerable to an accused or a convict and would not let him to use the Public Accounts Committee for political point scoring. Without naming PAC chairman Shahbaz Sharif, the minister said he was not anyone’s servant or slave to appear before the committee on short notice issued by an accused coming from jail.

He said rules required a 15- or 20-day advance notice, but it was unfair to call a minister or a ministry on Monday for a meeting on Tuesday.

The media persons boycotted the presser when he attacked Dawn for asking a question he did not like. He was asked his party (PTI) had been critical of LNG terminal contracts on a single bid basis awarded during the term of the previous government, then how could the same be justified during the PTI government.

“I could have expected such a question from Dawn only. I am not responsible for something that happened before my birth. My government was not in power when the bidding took place,” he said, adding: “If you find a controversy or want to concoct one, then this is open. You can investigate this as you like it. Because you are my elder I am answering this question, but if this was someone else from your organisation, I would have not answered and also set aside the mic.”

The journalists protested the aggressive tone and choice of words by the minister and boycotted the presser without asking a second question.

‘No conflict of interest’

Earlier, Wapda Chairman retired Gen Muzzamil Hussain said at a separate press conference that it was just a coincidence that the single bidder’s bid price was almost the same as estimated by the government and insisted there was no conflict of interest in the award of the contract to a company having links with a sitting cabinet member.

He disagreed when asked it appeared the bidding process was designed for the successful bidder as the estimated cost and bid price was almost the same as Rs309bn. He said the reason behind the disqualification of the second bidder comprising Frontier Works Organisation, China Power and Andritz Hydro was that the FWO had completed a Rs10bn project in the past and was taking 60pc shares in the consortium.

On the other hand, Mr Hussain added, Descon had completed relatively bigger projects and had 30pc shares in the consortium for Mohmand dam, while the remaining 70pc had been allocated to China Gezhouba and Voith Hydro. He said that preparations for the construction of the dam would be finalised within the next two weeks as all legal, financial and technical impediments had been overcome.

Mr Hussain agreed that Descon Engineering was related to Razak Dawood, but said this had nothing to do with the bidding conducted by Wapda. He said there was also no truth in aspersions that he or Wapda faced pressures on the issue of groundbreaking of the project.

Meanwhile, Mr Dawood explained in a statement that he had founded and headed Descon Engineering Limited like several other business ventures but disclosed all his business associations in writing to the prime minister and resigned from these positions before joining the government to ensure transparency and avoid conflict of interest.

“The disclosure had also identified the Mohmand dam project for which Descon had already bid”, but the prime minister felt the pending project should not prevent him from joining the cabinet, the adviser said.

“On joining the cabinet, the adviser has totally distanced himself from his former business interests and has scrupulously observed and implemented all requirements of transparency and avoidance of conflict of interest. There has been no departure whatsoever from this ethic,” he said.

Mr Dawood said the bids for Mohamand dam construction were floated by Wapda on Nov 23, 2017 in accordance with international competitive bid (ICB) pre-qualification, single stage and two-envelop procedures. Descon submitted its bid in joint venture with China Gezhouba Group Company (CGGC) with 30pc participating interest on June 26, 2018.

As per rules, technically qualified bidders are entitled for the financial bid opening and CGGC- Descon JV was the qualified bidder. He said the bids arranged by Wapda were processed as fully compliant with national and internationally accepted ICB procedures.

Published in Dawn, January 3rd, 2019