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ISLAMABAD: Expressing concerns at the delays in different projects/programs, the World Bank has urged the implementing agencies to strictly adhere to the agreed timelines set for the completion of different tasks/activities.

These concerns were expressed by the World Bank’s Country Director Najy Binhassine at a recent meeting held in the Economic Affairs Division (EAD), convened to review existing projects/programs of different sectors.

The meeting presided over by Secretary EAD, Dr. Nazim, was informed that financial inclusion and infrastructure project faced protracted implementation delays owning to budgetary allocation, slow decision making and delay in finalization of procurement as in spite of approval of revised PC1, signing of Subsidiary Grant Agreement (SGA) is still pending.

Funding for energy efficiency project: EAD asked to get firm World Bank commitment

The budgetary allocation for the project in CFY is low and would become a major hurdle in securing potential disbursement of $ 16 million.

The project team stated that the firm for payment of service system will be on board next month and SGA will be signed by end of current month.

The representative of Finance Division assured that necessary rupee cover will be secured and potential disbursement of $ 16 million would possibly be achieved. Secretary EAD desired the Finance Division and SBP to put their best efforts to complete the three critical activities i.e. procuring, signing SGA and securing of budgetary allocation within the indicated timelines.

During discussion on public financial management and accountability to support service delivery program, the meeting was briefed that Finance Division confirmed the achievement of DLRs worth $ 16 million.

It was further informed that on e-procurement module, meetings are being conducted with Ministry of Health and Education to achieve the critical DLR worth $ 10 million. The full achievement of DLR target of less than 10 per cent variance (Punjab and KP) seems difficult. There is likelihood of slippage/non-achievement of results valuing $ 10-12 million.

Tarbela-4 Hydropower Project (T4 HPP Ext): The project, albeit late, was completed on June 30, 2023. WAPDA was requested to take necessary measures to ensure smooth transition of Terbela-4 HPP from development phase to operational phase from its own resources.

As the operational activities of the project have been completed, WAPDA needs to clear all pending liabilities within the grace period to ensure its clean financial closure including closure of Designated Accounts.

Tarbela-5 hydropower project (TS Extension): the implementation pace of T5 HPP extension project has considerably improved. NTDC has awarded contract for construction of 500kV double circuit line for evacuation of power from T-5 HPP. Work on foundations for the transmission line towers has started and would be completed by mid -November, 2024.

On RAP payment, it was clarified that foundations work for T-towers to be erected on WAPDA’s land does not require any Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) payment. The RAP payment will be ensured before initiating the civil works at other locations.

Procurement of EM part has been done. Power Construction Corporation of China (PCCCL) agreed to provide recovery plan to meet inter-contract milestones as proposed by WB. It was further informed that water level will recede by November enabling start of activities in the intake area.

Chairman WAPDA has already given 2-week timeline for revised schedule. It was further informed that survey has been completed for rehabilitation of lower outlet gates.

The representative of WAPDA confirmed their achieving disbursement of S168 million (WB $100m + AIIB S68m) in CFY. In response to request for further time extension, it was informed that as per PC’s guidelines, WAPDA needs to secure CDWP approval before taking up the case with the WB for time extension.

DASU Hydropower (Phase-) Project: it was informed that construction work on 132kV line had considerably improved. SMR payments reached 73%, 1024 houses have been demolished and payment paid to 1424 land owners and acquisition of only 11 acres’ land was left. The completion is expected by end May, 2027.

In response to a query, representative of WAPDA informed that disbursement of S60m would possibly be achieved in CFY.

The Secretary EAD, while appreciating the efforts of WAPDA team, asked for further improving implementation performance of the project to not only cover the gaps but also to ensure early launch of Phase-II of the project.

DASU Hydropower (Transmission Line) Project: in spite of initial delays, the implementation of project has considerably improved and is further picking up pace. Now, proper supervision of Power Division and Management of NTDC would be of utmost importance to keep the pace. Similarly, allocation and availability of sufficient resources for the project activities need to be ensured.

It was decided Power Division and NTDC would keep watch and ensure allocation of sufficient resources to the project for its quick implementation and timely completion.

National Transmission Modernization (Phase-I) Project: the financial bid of IW Sub-Station was opened on August 3, 2023. However, combined evaluation has yet to be finalized. Similarly, RAP and land payments for IW have been facing delays. The representative of NTDC informed that they are coordinating with the bidders for extension of validity time for 2-3 months.

The extension of validity period by the lower bidder is yet to be confirmed. The representative of NTDC informed that more than 90% payment of IW has been completed and remaining will be completed within next 2-weeks and 100% RAP payments will be achieved by end November, 2023. The NTDC team confirmed achieving of$ 100m disbursement in CFY.

In response to a request for 35 months’ time extension, the completion of following actions/approvals by NTDC were asked for in light of Planning Commission’s guideline and restructuring requirements of the project, before taking up the case with World Bank.

CASA-1000 Electricity Transmission and Trade Project: the implementation pace of Pakistan part of the project is on track. However, the project advancement has been halted due to non-completion of Afghanistan part of the project. The representative of NTDC informed that land of Electrode Station has been handed over to contractor.

RAP payments of undisputed areas have been completed. In response to a query regarding non-utilization of grant funds, it was informed that certain capacity building activities under grant part (including of Russian language) has been formalized and field visit in Bangladesh was being coordinated.

With regard to a proposal of Community Support interventions in the area by CASA-1000 team, Secretary EAD supported the proposal of expending some grant funding for Community Support activities in the area.

Electricity Distribution Efficiency Improvement Project: designated accounts of all three Discos and of Power Division has been opened now. Technical Evaluation Report for hiring of consultants by HESCO submitted for World Bank No Objection Letter (NOL) on September 12, 2023 and 5 double cabin vehicles have been acquired.

HESCO is to award the three contracts for which WB has already issued NOLs without further delay. MEPCO has pre-qualified contractors for grid stations works and bid documents expected to be issued in February, 2024. WB NOL has been issued for MEPCOs consultants on 27 September, 2023, which will be presented to MEPCOs Board and contract award is expected in November. 2023.

PESCO has awarded contracts for project vehicles and ladders procurement. Tender for IT equipment was opened on 20 September 2023 and under evaluation, which after World Bank NOL is expected to be finalized by end-November, 2023. Project safety vehicles bidding documents are at a final stage.

The representative of PESCO raised concerns on shuffling of project staff. The representative of Power Division informed that interviews for 2 positions have been conducted and short listing for 7 remaining positions is ongoing.

All three DISCOs (HESCO, MEPCO & PESCO) would speed up their efforts and internal processes for early award of contracts and timely procurements. Power Division would ensure early completion of hiring of critical project staff and particularly hiring of consultants to kick start the reform activities.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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