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Power utility chief butts head with ruling party lawmaker

- PRAHLAD RIJAL, Kathmandu

May 22, 2019-

A dispute between NEA Managing Director Kulman Ghising and Nepal Communist Party (NCP) lawmaker Aman Lal Modi emerged during a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee on Tuesday after the latter accused Ghising of involvement in suspicious transactions and corruption.

“The recent report by Office of the Auditor General points at increasing dues yet to be collected by the authority,” Lawmaker Modi told the Post. “Instead of recovering the amount, the managing director is busy forming committees and that has raised our eyebrows.”

According to Modi, the accounts committee must launch an investigation into ‘acts of professional misconduct’ at the state-owned power utility.

In April, the Office of the Auditor General in its annual report had pointed that the electricity authority’s receivables from electricity charges had increased by 14.44 percent and stood at a massive Rs15.54 billion in the fiscal year 2017-18.

“Out of the receivables, the authority has transferred its liability of Rs560 million maintained under ‘suspicious provisions’ earlier to other headings. The authority has also not taken necessary steps to recover the due amounts,” the OAG report stated.

The Public Accounts Committee had called the electricity authority’s managing director, secretary at the energy ministry and other officials to deliberate on the recent row over due amount between industrialists and the power utility.

The meeting was held a day after the Patan Appellate Court revoked its earlier interim order allowing the authority to recover due electricity bills from industrialists, who had utilised regular power through trunk lines when the country was witnessing severe load shedding a few years ago.

Earlier, a row between the industrialists and electricity officials had intensified after the power utility sent them bills in line with its internal committee’s assessment that the industries supplied by dedicated feeders and trunk lines are yet to pay Rs4.3 billion in charges.

After some industrialists moved Patan Court accusing the authority of ‘illegally charging’ them, the court

had issued an interim order asking the power utility to not collect dues from industrialists for the time being.

The interim order was repealed on Monday.

After his motives were questioned by the lawmaker, Ghising in his defence challenged Modi to come up with evidence and not make baseless accusations.

Moreover, Ghising said that the lawmaker has mobilised his cadres in his constituency to halt cable pulling works at the 33 kV Duhabi-Katahari transmission line for the last six months.

“The lawmaker has not allowed us to pull cables in the 3-km-stretch of the transmission lines in his constituency and we have not been able to charge a recently built substation at Katahari,” said Ghising.

“A local representative should not create obstructions in development works.”

The Nepal Electricity Authority recently concluded the construction of Katahari substation but has not been able to charge it because locals of Gramtham Rural Municipality have obstructed the power utility from pulling cables in the region.

Gramtham is a small settlement in Morang constituency 4 from where lawmaker Modi won the elections.

According to NEA’s Biratnagar Division Chief Rajib Singh, Katahari is an industrial region and the existing Tankisinuwari substation used to relay power to the industries is already overloaded.

“Lawmaker Modi has mobilised his cadres to halt the works saying that the industrialists in the region did not fund his election campaign,” said an official at the electricity authority asking not to be named.

“Despite multiple rounds of talks at the District Administration Office of Morang (DAO), Modi has not budged from his stance and has even demanded Rs500,000 at a meeting in DAO on the pretext of bringing locals to the same page.”   

When asked, Modi denied the allegations labelled against him and said the official is spreading misinformation.

“I have no vested interests and even if the works are ongoing at my constituency, I have not paid much heed to recent developments,” Modi told the post.

“The electricity authority officials must be investigated because they are involved in corruption while selecting a contractor for the Koshi Corridor Transmission Line project and have received commission for importing electricity from India without running domestic power plants to full capacity,” he said.

Published: 22-05-2019 07:54

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