Energy sector suffers as ministry, NEA tussleA tussle between the Ministry of Energy (MoE) and the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has taken its toll on the development of the country’s energy sector.
A tussle between the Ministry of Energy (MoE) and the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has taken its toll on the development of the country’s energy sector. The dispute couldn’t have come at a worse time when the country is reeling under a severe power shortage with the winter season setting in, and fuel shipments from India sharply cut due to the embargo.
The sour relations between the line ministry and the authority has affected its functioning, and it has not been able to hold a board meeting for the past four months. As a result, various procurement processes, the signing of power purchase agreements (PPA), payments to contractors and extension of project deadlines, among other tasks, have come to a standstill.
The relations are so strained that the MoE does not even recognize Mukesh Raj Kafle as the managing director of the NEA, indicating that the dispute has been taken to a personal level.
Moreover, the ministry has not bothered to consult the NEA regarding the government’s plan to declare an energy emergency and address the ongoing power crisis.
According to the NEA, the procurement of transformers and electricity meters, the supply of fuel for the construction of major projects including Upper Tamakoshi, and the construction of a 5-km road connecting the powerhouse of the Trishuli 3A Hydropower Project with the dam site, among other urgent tasks, have stalled due to the ministry’s non-cooperation.
Major tasks like the construction of the Khimti-Barhabise 220/400 kV and Barhabise-Kathmandu 220/400 kV transmission line projects, Barhabise substation, Dana-Kusma 220 kV transmission line and substation at Dana, Kusma and a distribution master plan for the NEA, among others, are awaiting clearance from the NEA board.
The crux of the current crisis is the uneasy relations between the NEA chief and the MoE.
After former energy minister Radha Gyawali was sacked by the then Prime Minister Sushil Koirala at the recommendation of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) for her alleged involvement in the Solu Corridor transmission line corruption scandal, the MoE led by the then deputy prime minister and energy minister Bam Dev Gautam had also implicated Kafle in the scam.
Gautam had ordered Kafle to report to the ministry. But Kafle had refused to join the ministry and filed a writ at the Supreme Court arguing that the CIAA had given him a clean chit. On November 22, the apex court ruled in favour of Kafle and also legitimized the actions he had performed while the case was in court.
Kafle and Gyawali had not got along well ever since she took over the ministry. Gyawali had conducted an evaluation as per the agreement between Kafle and the ministry which allowed the managing director to be sacked for bad performance.
Despite the court ruling in Kafle’s favour, the ministry has refused to recognize him as the managing director of the NEA and entertain letters signed by him.
“This situation has had a severe impact as the NEA has not been able to move ahead with its plans,” Kafle said. “The MoE has imposed an ‘announced blockade’ against the NEA which is against the spirit of this energy-hungry nation.”
According to Kafle, the Supreme Court has already proven his legitimacy and he is ready to face the consequences if his involvement in any wrongdoing is proved. “The ongoing saga seems to be descending to a personal level. If I am guilty, I am ready to suffer the consequences. If not, this situation should end,” Kafle said.
The ministry, however, is of the view that the court verdict has not freed him from reporting to the ministry. “The ministry has asked the managing director of the NEA to join the ministry, and he should comply with the directive of the line ministry,” said Gokarna Panta, assistant spokesperson at the Energy Ministry.
The ministry had directed the NEA’s Deputy Managing Director Ram Chandra Pandey to take over as the officiating managing director. However, with Kafle continuing to stick to his post, Pandey has not been able to move in. The ministry has stated that they can only validate the letters signed by Pandey as he has been appointed as the officiating managing director.
- Relations are so strained that MoE does not even recognise Mukesh Raj Kafle as NEA MD
- Ministry has not bothered to consult NEA regarding plan to declare energy emergency
- NEA has not been able to hold a board meeting for the past four months
- Procurement processes, PPA signing, and payments to contractors have come to halt