Himachal power project deals get murkier

July 6th, 2008 - 11:56 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Bharatiya Janata Party
By Vishal Gulati
Shimla, July 6 (IANS) A Canadian partner of Brakel Corp NV of the Netherlands, which has been allotted two multimillion-dollar hydro-power projects in Himachal Pradesh, has informed the state government that it has never collaborated with the Dutch firm for setting up any projects. Government officials confirmed to IANS Saturday that Brakel’s partner, SNC-Lavalin International Inc. (SLII) of Canada, has informed the state vigilance department that it was never part of any consortium formed for the two projects.

SLII’s statement came after the vigilance department asked it to provide details about its association with Brakel, the officials said.

“SLII entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on February 7, 2006, whereby it was prepared to consider providing services to Brakel subject to terms and conditions to be agreed. However, there was never any agreement to provide the services on any terms and conditions. Moreover, the MoU expired February 7, 2007, and it was not renewed,” says the letter.

Earlier too, in May, the vigilance department had questioned the Shimla-based representatives of Brakel.

However, Brakel claims it had already informed the state government that SLII had backed out and that it had, in its place, entered into a tie-up with a US-based company, Synergies.

The state cabinet, which was supposed to have discussed the issue June 27, is likely to take a decision July 7.

The Thopan-Powari and Jangi-Thopan hydro power projects in Kinnaur district, 300 kilometres from here, were allotted to Brakel in 2006 by the previous Congress government.

Each project has a generation capacity of 960 megawatt and together require an investment of more than Rs.40 billion.

Last year, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - then in the opposition but now in power - had petitioned the governor, seeking a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the Brakel contract.

But when it came to power in January this year, the BJP awarded the same projects to Brakel, which made an upfront payment of Rs.1.73 billion.

Power company Reliance Energy has also moved the Himachal Pradesh High Court challenging the allotment of the two projects to Brakel.

The case is listed for hearing July 9.

The high court has asked the government to clarify its position after it changed stand midway on the issue.

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