The government has turned down a request of the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) for extending the time frame for the contractor working on the Tarbela 4th extension project.
Already, Wapda has given millions of dollars to the contractor as an incentive to accelerate work on the project.
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The original deadline for completing the project was February 2018, but it was brought forward to June 2017 under the government’s acceleration programme designed to narrow the gap between demand and supply of electricity.
In that regard, Wapda and the contractor signed a variation order and the latter got incentive payment of $25 million for stepping up work on the project.
However, the contractor later informed Wapda that it would not be able to finish work by June 2017. Consequently, the deadline was extended to December 2017.
Sinohydro Group of China is the prime contractor for civil works while a consortium of Voith Hydro of Germany and China has the contract for electrical and mechanical work packages.
Recently, Wapda Chairman Muzzamil Hussain again approached the federal government, seeking extension in the time frame to the original deadline of February 2018
Speaking about progress on the Tarbela 4th extension project, the Wapda chief told the Cabinet Committee on Energy, in a meeting held on April 18, that first, second and third power units would start functioning by the end of December 2017, April 15, 2018 and May 10, 2018 respectively. He said 84.10% civil works and 91.36% electrical and mechanical works had been completed by March 31, 2017.
Discussing implications of making the first unit operational in December 2017, he said other units would have to be shut down for 15 days in May 2017 and for nine days in September 2017. It would result in more load-shedding in May and September.
He asked the energy committee to set the commercial operation date for the first unit in February 2018 instead of December 2017 as electricity from the unit would only be available after June 2018.
Secretary to the prime minister recalled that it had been committed that the first power unit would be completed by December 2017, but now new deadline was being proposed. He termed it unjustified, saying the implications were not presented earlier.
As additional payments had already been made to the contractor under the acceleration plan, the energy committee decided that the time frame committed by Wapda would be adhered to.
Earlier, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had ordered a comprehensive inquiry into the payment of $25 million incentive money to the contractor, which failed to meet the work completion deadline. The premier wanted to know the causes and reasons that had prevented the contractor from achieving the June 2017 goal despite getting additional payments.
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The doling out of taxpayer money as an incentive has caught many off guard. A reward is normally given after the completion of work ahead of schedule. But in this case, the contractor has already been paid $25 million.
Under the Tarbela 4th extension project, three units of 470 megawatts each with cumulative capacity of 1,410MW are being installed on T-4 tunnel, which will enhance capacity of the Tarbela power station to 4,888MW compared to the current 3,487MW.