The much-awaited inauguration ceremony of the Mohmand Dam scheduled for Sunday was postponed for at least the second time this month, government officials said.
The ceremony for the dam was to be held on January 2 but was rescheduled until today due to a controversy that emerged following the award of the contract of the hydropower project.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai confirmed to DawnNewsTV that the ceremony today had been postponed.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Media Iftikhar Durrani said a new date would be announced after consultation with Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, who would attend the inauguration ceremony.
Durrani ruled out the impression that the project's inauguration had been delayed due to any controversies. He said the tender for the project was awarded in the PML-N government's tenure and the incumbent government had no role in the matter.
Chief Justice Nisar had last week taken offence over not being informed about the rescheduling of the ceremony and had said he may not attend.
Justice Nisar has paid close attention to the issue of water scarcity and had ordered the creation of the Dam Fund in July last year ─ a fund that appeals to the general public and overseas Pakistanis for donations for the construction of the Mohmand Dam and the Diamer-Bhasha Dam.
The top judge's initiative was later joined by the prime minister. Within a span of five months, a total of Rs8.46bn was deposited in The Supreme Court of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of Pakistan Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand Dams Fund, according to State Bank of Pakistan data in December 2018.
Justice Nisar and Prime Minister Imran Khan were to be the chief guests of today's event.
Mohmand Dam contract controversy
The dam contract was awarded on a single-bid basis to a consortium of three companies led by Descon, a company previously owned by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, in which he and his family members currently hold ownership stakes.
A second contestant for the bid, a consortium comprising the Frontier Works Organisation, Andritz Hydro and Power China was technically disqualified and its financial bid was not considered, some top-ranking national contractors cited by Dawn said earlier.
The award of the bid to the Descon-led consortium raised questions about a possible conflict of interest and the process of the award.
Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda claimed the controversy around the award of the dam's contract has been created "on the agenda of international powers".
He said that Dawood had already resigned from the company before the bidding was held on July 18 ─ before the new government came to power. He added that the PM's adviser had nothing to do with the contract and had no way to influence the bidding process.
Descon only holds 30pc of shares in the consortium and the bids were evaluated by technical experts comprising Nespak, an Australian company, and another foreign firm, according to Vawda.
Wapda Chairman Hussain said that it was coincidental that the single bidder's price was also 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.
Although Hussain agreed that Descon was linked to Dawood, he maintained it had nothing to do with the bidding conducted by Wapda and dismissed the notion that he or the body was facing pressure over the groundbreaking of the project.
Abdul Razak Dawood in a statement also explained that he had founded and headed Descon like several other business ventures, but had 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 Mohmand Dam project
The construction of the Rs309 billion Mohmand dam ─ which will be situated on the Swat river in the Manda area ─ is said to be imperative to resolve the problems of water scarcity and electricity shortfall in the country.
A sum of Rs2bn has been allocated for the project in the Public Sector Development Programme 2018-19.
Work on the dam will begin this month and is expected to be complete within five years. It will have the capacity to store 0.676 MAF of water and generate 800 megawatts of electricity. It will also irrigate 16,000 acres of land and increase agricultural production in the area.
The completion of the project will require 8,668 acres of land mostly in Mohmand tribal district and some parts of Bajaur and Malakand.