Belated awakening of NAB

Ansar Abbasi
Monday, Jun 20, 2022

ISLAMABAD: The issue of alleged mismanagement by the-then Chairman Wapda Lt-Gen (retd) Muzammil Hussain causing losses worth billions of rupees to the authority was highlighted by The News in 2018 but the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), after the departure of Imran Khan government, has now made it a case of corruption.

The NAB, which has the repute of harassing and hounding members of the bureaucracy, businessmen and politicians, remained silent on the issue, which was highlighted by this newspaper a few years back during Imran Khan's tenure. Now the Bureau has summoned the former Wapda chairman Lt-Gen (retd) Muzammil.

It was not a case of corruption or kickbacks but of premature operation of Tunnel-4 of Tarbela Dam, which caused the reported losses. The News had reported that only due to the premature inauguration of T-4 in March 2018 by Wapda to please the-then PMLN prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, had culminated in operational losses of more than Rs25 billion over the three-month annual flood season of 2018.

It was reported by this newspaper that Wapda had inaugurated the $850 million Tarbela-IV project in March, despite warnings from the German engineering consultant, Voith, not to operate the turbine of the fourth tunnel at Tarbela Dam while its reservoir was at the dead level. However, Wapda went ahead and ran the turbine for several hours during the inauguration of the project by the-then prime minister. As a result, mud and slurry from the practically empty reservoir filled part of the tunnel, rendering three turbines inoperable.

Since the Tarbela Dam reservoir was at the dead storage level in March, the only little water available for use during the inauguration ceremony was located in the flushing inlet and full of silt. The result was a daily loss of Rs280 million.

Former PM Imran Khan took notice of The News report and had ordered a probe, which said, "It is 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 Chairman WAPDA.”

The report calculated a total loss of $753 million during the execution of the Tunnel-4 Tarbela project and it includes the losses incurred because of serious faults occurred owing to the premature inauguration of the project in March 2018. The-then Wapda chairman when contacted had said at the time of the publication of this story that the investigation report was not based on facts. He had said that the inauguration decision was taken strictly in accordance with “commercial coordinated schedule” in Jun 2017 as was agreed between three stakeholders -- employer, consultants and the contractor.

The retired General had said that the “commercial coordinated schedule” was approved by Wapda authority comprising chairman and members. He added that the commissioning of the project in March was also strictly in accordance with the WB guidelines. Gen Muzammil, who has retired from the post recently, had added that the WB wanted to make ready the unit by March/April 2018 to ensure benefits in May/June the same year.

According to the Investigation Report, “The statements of Chairman WAPDA and Adviser Projects WAPDA 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), 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 Chairman WAPDA.”

The report said that on the eve of inauguration, Wapda submitted the following talking points for the-then prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi: “Commissioning of Tarbela 4th Extension Hydropower Project is yet another historic milestone achieved by the government to add 1410 MW in the National Grid.

“Completion of this great project within time and cost always held top priority of the government. “While congratulating the whole nation on this remarkable achievement, I would specially appreciate the untiring efforts of the Project Team comprising WAPDA Staff, Project Consultants, all the Contractors and other stakeholders whose selfless devotion enabled to timely complete the project.”

The Investigation Committee (IC) had unanimously determined that the total loss occurred during the execution of the project comes to $753.7 million. The IC in its 2019 report had proposed to the prime minister the following actions:

i) Necessary directions may be issued to the Auditor General of Pakistan for holding a comprehensive Performance audit of T$ HP within 60 days for determination of the following, among others, to carry out: a) An overall performance audit of the project. b) Specific to the matters spelled out and losses worked out…. (in the report). c) By fixing responsibility and apportioning the corresponding loss caused by the respective individual/ entities. d) Any other matter relating to or/ and ancillary to the above.

ii) In the light of the report of the performance audit, the decision for any criminal inquiry into the matter by FIA or NAB may be decided.