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Bidding process for Mohmand dam project sparks controversy

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday met Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda and chairman of the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) retired Lt Gen Muzamil Hussain and discussed with them the Rs300 billion Mohmand dam project that has now become controversial, according to sources.

Talking to Dawn, some top-ranking national contractors said the government had made the project controversial when it considered “single” financial bid of a consortium comprising three firms — Descon, the company owned by the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Commerce and Industry Razzaq Daud, China Gezhouba and Voith Hydro — as the second contestant — a consortium consisting of the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO), Andritz Hydro and Power China — was technically disqualified and its financial bid was not considered.

On the other hand, Wapda claimed that no “illegality” was committed in the process of award of the project despite the fact that the financial bid of Rs309 billion of the only consortium in the run was opened on Monday.

Financial bid of only one consortium having adviser’s firm has been opened

The top contractors, who did not participate in the bidding and observed the process as silent spectators, said the award of the contract would raise questions on the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s claim of transparency and fair play as it was an example of “clash of interests” because the firm of the PM’s adviser had participated in the bidding process.

They asked how the second consortium was knocked out on technical grounds though the firms in it were also experienced and had executed multi-billion rupees mage projects in the recent past.

They said once the second consortium had been removed from the process, the government should have invited more bids to compete with the remaining one consortium and to ensure transparency and healthy competition.

Talking to Dawn, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said there was nothing wrong in the award of the contract and added: “Is there any firm in the country which is bigger than Descon?”

He said he would advise Mr Daud to come up in the media and give a detailed statement on the issue.

When contacted, a Wapda spokesman said the contract had so far not been awarded formally as only financial bid of the consortium having Descon in it was opened on Monday. “Now the bid will be evaluated thoroughly and then it will be decided to award the contract or not,” he added.

He said Wapda had called two bids — technical and financial — from both consortiums and the technical bid of the consortium having the FWO in it was rejected in July last year. “Once the technical bid is rejected the financial bid of the same firm or consortium is not opened,” he said. “Therefore, the financial bid of remaining consortium was opened.”

The spokesman claimed that Wapda had completely followed prescribed rules and procedures in the bidding process.

Interestingly, the government had shelved inauguration ceremony of much-awaited Mohmand dam project which was to be held on Jan 2.

The spokesman said no new date has been finalised for the inauguration.

The construction of Mohmand dam is said to be imperative to overcome the problems of water shortage and electricity shortfall in the country. A sum of Rs2bn has already been allocated for the dam project in the Public Sector Development Programme 2018-19.

The Supreme Court, while issuing a detailed verdict in the case pertaining to acute water scarcity in Pakistan, said “the need for water reservoirs is not only expedient but also sine qua non (an essential condition) for the survival of the people and economy of Pakistan”.

It has been learnt that the inauguration ceremony of Mohmand hydro power dam was shelved due to the controversy on the issue of award of the contract of project.

The minister for water resources could not be contacted for comments despite attempts.

The 54-year-old Mohmand dam project is being materialised with the collective efforts of the PTI government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar.

The chief justice has taken personal interest in the project and helped remove obstacles in the way of its execution.

No mega project has been undertaken in water sector in the country after the construction of Tarbela dam in 1967, resulting in the energy and water crisis in Pakistan.

It has been reported that Mohmand dam will store 1.2 million acre feet water and generate 800MW hydel electricity besides irrigating 18,000 acres land. The project will also help protect Mardan, Charsadda, Peshawar and other areas from floods during monsoon season.

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