Sunday February 05, 2023

NTDC undergoes massive reshuffling

May 29, 2021

LAHORE: In an unprecedented move, the government has reshuffled about two dozen senior officials of state-owned National Transmission and Despatch Company (NTDC), the News learnt on Friday.

According to the notifications, as many as 23 high ranking officials have been transferred and posted, some to remote locations from the head-office posting, as part of a massive re-organisation process. Official sources claimed that several officials who have been transferred from their key position at head office include outgoing Khawaja Riffiat Hussan and Chief Engineer (PMU) Munawar Hussain Bhatti.

Sources said the former MD, who was removed from the top position last week, now has been posted at Hyderabad as General Manager, NTDC South while Bhatti has been asked to join NTDC Lab at Rawat as Chief Engineer.

Sources said senior officials including outgoing MD and others were transferred from headquarters as part of a move to conduct departmental inquiry into delay in executing key projects including HVDC Matiari-Lahore Transmission Line and Lahore North Substation.

When contacted, an official declined to comment on factors behind these transfer postings as well as inquiry being initiated on delays in execution of key projects.

Sources said the gross negligence on the part of state-owned NTDC in executing a key electricity linking project has put a question mark on commercial operations of South-North flagship CPEC power transmission lines as well as allied generation projects.

The management of NTDC also delayed awarding the contract of vital power connectivity project for more than two years on the wrong premise while extending the validity of bid security for a record 9th time, forcing the bidders' drop out as they lose financial viability one after another.

A senior official of the ministry of energy says delay in awarding the project is an operational level issue. He did not indicate any action on the part of the Ministry for rectifying poor handling of the tender awarding process by NTDC.

NTDC management blamed the slow land acquisition process for not awarding the contract of the power linking project.

Spokesman of NTDC said the procurement for Lahore North Substation and extension work at Ghakkar was initiated well in time in December-2018 on international competitive bidding basis with concurrence and coordination of Asian Development Bank (ADB), the financing agency. However, later on, the bidding process faced intricacies due to unforeseen events like non-availability of land and pending litigations before Lahore High Court from the land owners which remained pending for two years subsequently delaying the issuance of no objection letter from ADB. The spokesman said COVID-19 had an adverse impact on the performance of all sectors and directly or indirectly impacted resolution of outstanding issues. It is transpired that all the delaying events were unforeseen and beyond the control of NTDC. NTDC put its utmost efforts for achieving the project objectives despite suffering heavily from COVID-19 in terms of loss of un-replaceable human capital. In fact, NTDC had called bids, completed all bid evaluation process, however, due to circumstances, the procurement process could not be matured.

Sources said the ministry of energy is in deep slumber. The delay will have a catastrophic cascading effect on the national grid, rendering South-North high-voltage transmission lines underutilized besides hampering commercial launch of several key power generation projects, requiring electricity evacuation.

When NTDC floated a tender for construction of the project in December 2018, it seemed an easy bet for completing the whole process by mid-2019 or so. However, with crossed fingers, NTDC management continues to spin the matter on one pretext or another and refuses to give a green signal to successful bidder while the federal ministry of energy acts like a silent spectator. In this hectic 'inactivity', the project remains off-track and has yet to be awarded---even after floating tender two-and-a-half years back.

On increase in equipment and labor costs due to inflation, the NTDC spokesperson said it needs to be elaborated that most commercial contracts of such volume have price adjustment provisions besides exchange rate fluctuations, which is applicable in either way. Further, re-bidding may not necessarily yield higher rates and is dependent upon market conditions. Therefore, at this stage it would be premature to estimate any savings or loss to the company. However, sources said, land acquisition has nothing to do with the tender awarding process. You can blame lack of progress on a certain project on failure to acquire land but there is no relation whatsoever between signaling a go-ahead to a tender winning party and land acquisition process for completing the project, sources opined.

Due to delay in commissioning of Matiari-Lahore 660kV HVDC transmission line project up to a year, as many as Rs4 billion of losses are likely on monthly basis on account of penalties from different IPPs having 4,000MW capacity.