WEB DESK: Minister for Water and Power Khwaja Asif on Wednesday claimed that to date Rs 51.5 billion has been spent on Nandipur power project which has been operational since 24 October and is producing 425MW of electricity. Speaking at a joint news conference along with Minister for Information Pervez Rashid on the eve of the second phase of local bodies’ elections in Punjab and Sindh, Khawaja Asif said the Auditor General of Pakistan’s (AGP) report on the Nandipur Power Project has by and large endorsed the government’s position on the cost and production capacity of the plant.
The report has rejected allegations that the project cost rose to Rs 84 billion as claimed by some sections of media and is within the estimated cost of Rs 58.4 billion with Rs 51.5 billion having been spent on the project, the Minister added. Khwaja Asif added that during the tenure of the PPP-led coalition government Nandipur power project was delayed even though it had already received Rs 31.8 billion and the present government in 2013 faced two options: either to abandon the project or resume the work as per the directives of the Supreme Court at some additional cost.
The present government decided to resume work on the project at a minimum possible additional cost which was estimated by the previous government of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in January 2013. Asif maintained “the executive committee of national economic council (ECNEC) in July 2013, one month after the present government came to power, had give final approval to the project at an inflated cost of Rs 58.4 billion.”
He said that the cost of the project has soared because of inordinate delays during the previous government’s tenure and massive fluctuations in exchange, inflation and interest rates. “A delay in completion of the project led to cost escalation,” he said. However, he was reluctant to identify who was responsible for the Rs 12 billion cost escalation due to the three-month delay in Nandipur’s operations, ie, from July 2015. The Minister first stated that it was the responsibility of the contractor and then added that the delay led to cause a loss of Rs 2 to 2.5 billion.
Khawaja Asif said Nandipur power project since its inauguration last year has produced electricity worth Rs 5.6 billion and now the new team has revived the project and it is now fully functional and producing 445 megawatts of electricity. The Minister said the cost of the electricity produced from Nandipur power project would be reduced by 2 cents after it was shifted to gas.
The Minister said that operation and maintenance contract was delayed by about two months but the management was replaced through an in-house change and by hiring experts from the market and the project was made operational. “We will issue a tender for hiring of OM contractor through a transparent process by following Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules,” he added.
The Minister said the AGP also recommended shifting of the power plant to LNG and for Sui Northern Gas Pipelines to lay the pipeline for this purpose. As a result, he said the country would be able to have cheaper electricity. The Minister claimed that an indiscriminate action was being taken against electricity theft but remained tight lipped to a question on Sindh ministers reportedly involved in power theft. He said the Prime Minister is personally taking an interest in settling outstanding dues to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on account of net hydel profit.