ISLAMABAD: Transparency International -Pakistan (TI-P) has refused to accept an assertion of Ministry of Water Resources that Prime Minister ordered closure of an inquiry into the affairs of the Tarbela fourth extension project, saying that it is an attempt aimed at diverting blame from themselves.
In a letter to Secretary to the Prime Minister, Azam Khan, Chairperson TI-P Yasmeen Lari and Vice Chairperson former Justice Nasira Iqbal, has sent a detailed reply to the rejoinder of Ministry of Water Resources.
Ministry of Water Resources claimed that an Investigation Committee headed by the Secretary Water Resources was constituted on September 5, 2018. Secretary P1anning, Development & Reforms, Additional Director General (FlA), representative of Pakistan Engineering Council, representative of NESPAK, and Joint Secretary MOWR were its members. It was tasked to inquire into the matter of premature inauguration. The Committee in its report of February 22, 2019, “unequivocally established” that the inauguration of the project was carried out after having fulfilled all contractual formalities. The question of premature inauguration, therefore, does not arise.
TI-P, in its comments, argued that MOWR’s statement that “the Committee in its report dated February 22, 2019, unequivocally established that the inauguration of the project was carried out having fulfilled all contractual formalities” is incorrect. According to a report of March 2, 2019 , “The IC (6 member) also determined that the availability of water quality suitable for operating the units as being the foremost pre-requisite was not available, hence the operation of units in absence of favourable environment was a premature action decided by Wapda, consultants and contractors.”
This is substantiated by Para 7.14 of IC Report, which also states that “in the circumstances discussed above, the IC is of the opinion that the project was inaugurated before the completion of all formalities.”
Ministry of Water Resources also claimed that the Investigation Committee was constituted on Prime Minister’s orders who, instead of approving the Committee’s recommendations, returned the report in original, on May 8, 2019, without any directions, which implied closure of the case. Initiating any further action on recommendations was thus beyond this Ministry’s mandate.
TI-P, in its comments at this claim stated that the MOWR’s “which implied closure of the case” statement is erroneous as the report clearly mentioned that the Investigation Committee constituted by the Prime Minister on losses incurred because of pre-mature inauguration of tunnel-4 of Tarbela Dam unanimously determined that the total loss occurred during the execution of the project comes to $753.7 million (around Rs100 billion).”
The PSPM letter of May 8, 2019 addressed to Secretary MOWR, refers to the Investigation Committee Report for T-4 HPP, and also to the Federal Minister for Water Resource’s D.O. letter of February 25, 2019.
The PM’s letter states “while considering the Investigation Committee’s report for T-4 HPP, the Prime Minister is pleased to agree with the conclusion of the Minister for Water Resource. Accordingly the Investigation Committee’s Report is returned in Original.”
However, it is clear in the letter of February 24, 2019 by Faisal Vawda, the then Minister of MOWR, written within two days of the receipt of IC Report, that the Minister did not present the true findings of IC for consideration of the Prime Minister. The findings of IC are as follows: (i) both 6-member Investigation Committee (IC) and 7-member Technical Investigation Committee TIC determined in the Investigation Report that as per Para 7.14 the Project was inaugurated before the completion of all formalities; (ii) IC Report paragraph 7.18 states “the date of operation of unit 17 stands established to be fixed through consultative process of parties to the contract vs. the employer (Wapda), the Consultants (T4CJV), and the contractors (Civil and EM Contractors). The unit 17 was subsequently inaugurated on March 10. 2018. Notwithstanding the above, it is also determined from the statements of Member (Power, Adviser Project Wapda, C.E. (O&M) and PD T4HPP that the date of inauguration was made without their consultation and also not at the Authority level of Wapda, rather it was done at the level of Chairman Wapda; and (iii) IC Report Para 6.07(h) states: “without paying any heed to such unequivocal advices by IPOE (Independent Panel of Experts) and the bank, there seems no other motivation except any extraneous influence to bring the units in a position where it can be declared the Wet Commissioning has been completed, hence the units are now in Commercial Operations- at such a time when it was injurious to release the water into the turbines when the water was carrying heavy loads of sediments owed to successive decline of reservoir level at a faster pace due to release of stored water for Rabi crops, and the reservoir level being at the Dead Storage level.”
Regarding the upper age limit for Chairman Wapda, Ministry of Water Resources stated that neither the Wapda Act 1958 (and the regulations made there under) nor decisions of the Apex Court put any such bar on the appointment in the public sector organizations.
TI-P argues that the statement is incorrect. According to Government of Pakistan Cabinet Division of December 6, 2007 sent to all Secretaries, “the Chairman/Chief Executive shall unless he resigns from the office, hold office for a period of 3 years and shall be eligible for re-appointment for such term or terms as the Federal Government may determine, provided that the Chairman shall cease to hold office on attaining the age of sixty five years or expiry of the term, whichever is earlier. The subject of this notification is “terms of appointment and age limit of Chairmen and Members of government Regularity Authority, Corporation, Autonomous Bodies, Commissions etc. Wapda is an Authority, Water & Power Development Authority, and this notification is also applicable on Chairman and Members of Wapda.”