KUKL board to elect new chairman next week

- Post Report, Kathmandu
The board will elect a new chairman to replace Suresh Basnet, who has lost the support of most of the staff and board members because of his high-handed attitude

Mar 9, 2017-Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL), the sole water supplier to the Kathmandu Valley, finally held its long overdue annual general meetings for fiscal years 2013-14 and 2014-15 on Tuesday and Wednesday, opening the way for the board of directors to assemble and elect a new chairman.

“Since the annual meetings are now over, the board of directors is planning to meet next week,” said KUKL General Manager Mahesh Prasad Bhattarai.

The board will elect a new chairman to replace Suresh Basnet, who has lost the support of most of the staff and board members because of his high-handed attitude. 

Basnet became the chairman of KUKL in June 2014 as a representative of the Nepal Chamber of Commerce (NCC) which holds a 9 percent stake in the water utility.

The NCC had previously decided to recall Basnet because of his unpopularity and send another member to represent the umbrella body on the KUKL’s board. “We’ll call our own board meeting soon and chart a course of action,” said NCC President Rajesh Kaji Shrestha. 

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Water Supply and Sanitation (MoWSS), which owns 30 percent of the drinking water company, is all set to field its candidate for the post of chairman.

“KUKL is currently in need of a strong leader because the first phase of the Melamchi Drinking Water Project is expected to be completed [by October] after which the Valley will start receiving 170 million litres of water per day,” MoWSS Secretary Bhim Prasad Upadhyaya said. “Besides, the ministry is the only stakeholder of KUKL that will be held accountable if anything goes wrong after the Melamchi project comes online.”

Since Basnet became chairman, KUKL has faced ‘delays in the decision making process’ because of his ‘high-handed conduct’ which, according to officials, was 

preventing the management from executing various plans, such as hiring new staff and holding annual general meetings. 

Basnet has also been accused of ‘using political influence to compel board members to take decisions to suit his needs’, and ‘intervening in the company’s general manager selection process to appoint his candidate to the post’. 

Because of his questionable behaviour, he was relieved from his duties in May 2015 after the board of directors endorsed a no-confidence motion filed against him, and appointed Padam Kumar Mainali, a government joint secretary, in his place.

Basnet went to the Patan Appellate Court claiming that his dismissal was illegal, but the court rejected his appeal. 

Basnet then took the case to the Supreme Court which issued a stay order barring KUKL from removing him right away. The court hearing has been postponed around 18 times, allowing him to cling to his post pending a final verdict.

There was no way to replace Basnet unless someone convinced him to step down or the Nepal Chamber of Commerce, which had sent him, recalled him.

Last February, Basnet withdrew his petition to the Supreme Court after the KUKL board agreed to rescind its decision to fire him on charges of incompetence. 

This paved the way for KUKL’s board to replace Basnet with a new chairman. The utility plans to hold its annual general meeting for 2015-16 as soon as the financial audit is over.

Published: 09-03-2017 09:36

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