TIP takes up Rs100 bn Tarbela-4 project loss issue with PM

The News

ISLAMABAD: Transparency International Pakistan has approached the prime minister’s office with the request that the inquiry into The News story about the loss of $753.7 million (around Rs 100 billion) caused to the exchequer during the execution by Chairman WAPDA of a project in Tunnel-4 of the Tarbela Dam Project was wrongly closed by the Ministry of Water Resources (MOWR).

In a letter issued on Wednesday and addressed to the principal secretary to the prime minister, the TI Pakistan said: “We reject the MOWR assertion that the prime minister ordered the inquiry to be closed on 8.5.2019, which is clearly an attempt to divert the blame from themselves.”

The TI Pakistan, which had earlier sought clarification from the MOWR regarding The News stories on the subject, published in 2018 and 2019, said in the letter that the ministry contended that the Investigation Committee (IC) in its report had unequivocally established that the inauguration of the project was carried out having fulfilled all contractual formalities. “The question of premature inauguration therefore, does not arise”.

The TIP commented that the MOWR statement is incorrect and referred to this correspondent’s story published in The News, dated March 2, 2019, which stated, “The IC (6 member) also determined that the availability of water quality suitable for operating the units as being the foremost prerequisite was not available, hence the operation of units in absence of favourable environment was a premature action decided by Wapda, consultants and contractors.”

The TI Pakistan said that The News story’s fact is substantiated by Para 7.14 of the 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.”

According to the MOWR clarification, the Investigation Committee was constituted on the prime minister’s orders. The ministry added that the PM instead of approving the committee’s report returned it in original, on May 8, 2019, without any directions, which, according to the ministry, implied the closure of the case.

The TIP, however, insisted that the MOWR statement that “implied closure of the case” is erroneous. The TIP said, “According to Ansar Abbasi’s report published in daily News, dated March 2, 2019, the IC report states “The Investigation Committee (IC), 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).”

According to the TIP, the PS to the PM’s letter dated 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 DO’s letter of even number dated 25.02.2019. 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, the TIP said, it is clear in the DO letter dated Feb 24, 2019 by Mr. Faisal Vawda, Minister of MOWR, written within two days of the receipt of the IC report (dated 22 Feb 2019), that the minister did not present the true findings of the IC for the consideration of the prime minister.

The TI Pakistan in its opinion said that the prime minister never ordered closure of the investigation. It noted that the IC report was prepared and signed by the highest serving officers and therefore cannot be overruled by one person, even though he may hold the high office of a federal minister. The TIP requested the Prime Minister of Pakistan examine the TI Pakistan comments and opinions.

It was reported by The News in June 2019 that the government had developed second thoughts about taking action against those senior Wapda officials who, as per the inquiry ordered by Prime Minister Imran Khan, were responsible for around Rs100 billion loss during the execution of the Tunnel-4 Tarbela project. The inquiry report was presented to the prime minister in Feb 2019 seeking a performance audit of the project and the subsequent criminal inquiry into the matter by NAB or FIA but the report was shelved after the intervention of Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda. In 2018, Prime Minister Imran Khan had ordered the inquiry while taking notice of The News report about loss of billions of rupees incurred because of the premature inauguration of Tunnel-4 of theTarbela Dam.

The investigation report determined from the statements of M(P), Adviser Projects Wapda, CE (O&M) and the 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 the Wapda chairman.

The report calculated a total loss of $753 million (over Rs100 billion) during the execution of the Tunnel-4 Tarbela project and it pointed out that the losses were incurred because of serious faults occurred owing to the premature inauguration of the project in March 2018.

The then Wapda chairman was of the view that the investigation report was not based on facts. He had told The News a few months ago that the inauguration decision was taken strictly in accordance with “commercial coordinated schedule” in June 2017 as was agreed between three stakeholders — the employer, consultants and the contractor.

The investigation report, however, said, “The statements of Wapda chairman and Adviser Projects provide that the project completion dates were fixed to save the project from the conditions of time at large and these dates were fixed in July 2017 stating inter alia the completion of Unit 17 on 25-02-2018. With this in view, the date of operation of Unit 17 stands established to be fixed through a consultative process of the parties to the contract vis — the employer (Wapda), the consultants (T4CJV) and the contractors (Civil and EM contractors). The unit 17 was subsequently inaugurated on 10-03-2018. Notwithstanding above, it is also determined from the statements of M(P), Wapda adviser projects, CE(O&M) and the 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 the Wapda chairman.”

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