close
Friday August 19, 2022

A billion-dollar memorandum of misunderstanding

In October 2020, Fawad Chaudhry announced that an electric vehicle manufacturing company would invest four billion dollars to set up a plant for producing electrical automobiles in Pakistan

July 02, 2022
Fawad Chaudhry. Photo: The News/File
Fawad Chaudhry. Photo: The News/File

ISLAMABAD: In October 2020, Fawad Chaudhry announced that an electric vehicle manufacturing company would invest four billion dollars to set up a plant for producing electrical automobiles in Pakistan.

He was federal minister for science and technology at that time and made the above statement after signing an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with EGV Transport Limited, a UK-based company. Fawad and James O’Keefe, the EGV’s chief executive officer, signed the MoU. The announcement followed a media hype and praise for the minister for this landmark achievement.

Fawad then said electric buses would soon ply on roads of major cities like Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore in the first phase. Around 20 percent of public transport vehicles would be shifted to electric facilities in near future under the National Electric Vehicle Policy and that the communication ministry had been asked to facilitate installation of electrical charges along the motorways, he continued.

However, one year and nine months on, there is nothing on ground. Fawad held the portfolio for six months after the signing of MoU but without making any progress beyond holding the presser. The details that unfolded later suggested that this MoU turned out to be a memorandum of misunderstanding as Fawad was neither authorised to sign it nor he followed codal formalities, which led to converting it into a non-starter project.

In January 2022, Unicorn Green Solutions (UGS), the EGV’s Pakistani partner, wrote to Shibli Faraz, the successor of Fawad in the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST), that two buses had arrived for the trial purpose. Muhammad Azam Khan, the CEO of UGS, further informed the MoST that a group of investors has also arrived in Islamabad to conclude the project details. A month later, he asked the Board of Investment to persuade MoST into processing the request. President Dr Arif Alvi also sought a response from the MoST. And then finally the myth of MoU was demystified.

The MoST said that such an MoU was beyond the mandate of the ministry as its main job is research and development whereas the scope of work defined in the MoU is related to the Ministry of Industries & Production, which could proceed on it after consulting with the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Communication and Ministry of Climate Change.

As the government has changed, a report sought by the present administration received a rather candid reply. The MoST said the proposal for such an MoU is initiated by the ministry, which didn’t happen in this case and Fawad signed it without following that route. Since the matter pertained to the mass transit project, the MoST further noted, this is out of its ambit. Moreover, neither consultation was made with stakeholders (ministries of Industries, Climate Change, Finance, Interior and Foreign Affairs) nor MoU was vetted by the Law and Justice Division, let alone seeking approval from the federal cabinet. The News sent questions to Fawad Chaudhry for his version and he didn’t reply. Azam Khan of UGS didn’t offer any comment either.

Comments