The power and energy ministry has decided to seek further extension of the Speedy Supply of Power and Energy (Special Provisions) Act 2010 indemnifying officials concerned against prosecution for awarding contracts without tender for three more years until 2021.
The ministry made the decision at a meeting with state minister for power, energy and mineral resources Nasrul Hamid in chair on March 29, said ministry officials.
Enacted in October 2010 for two years, the law was first extended by two years until October 11, 2014 and by four years until October 11, 2018, they said.
Ministry’s power cell director general Mohammad Hossain on Tuesday told New Age that the ministry would seek the three-year extension to facilitate emergency procurement of goods and services for power and energy sector.
It is a legal support for facilitating purchases in situations as worse as power cuts, he said.
Officials said that the proposal would require prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s approval, as she holds the portfolio of power and energy ministry, to be placed before the cabinet before being tabled in parliament.
Asked if the act would be enforced permanently or be incorporated into the Public Procurement Rules for power and energy sector, he said that there was no such scope and the act would be amended time-to-time.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh energy adviser M Shamsul Alam said that the law was in force only to encourage and facilitate dishonest businesses in the country’s energy sector.
Many projects have been awarded and many would be awarded to the favoured ones using the act pushing the energy sector to disaster, he said, adding that the government had no plan to create a fair and competitive business environment in the sector.
National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports member-secretary Anu Muhammad, also economist, said that the law was protecting corrupt officials and policymakers.
He said that the government had explored expensive ways instead of cheaper ones in solving the crisis in the energy sector using the act since 2010.
‘The extension of the law carries only one message that the government is planning to continue the irregularities,’ he said.
The power cell director general, however, said that the act won’t be used on a large scale.
On October 12, 2010, the government enacted the act for two years for ‘quick disposal’ of contracts in power and energy sector to meet the demand for power and energy in a short time.
Utilities under the power and energy divisions have so far awarded numerous contracts bypassing tenders under the act drawing severe criticism as the procurements were much expensive than those awarded through competitive bidding.
Among the projects, 35 contracts signed by the state-run Power Development Board to buy power from 15 quick rental, 5 rental and 15 independent power suppliers from 37 plants with a combined generation capacity of about 3,000MW for 3-15 years were most significant in terms of effect on power sector and the economy. Most of the quick rental and rental power suppliers obtained extensions for 3-8 years under the act. The contracts were signed by 2015.
In 2017, the power board again awarded 11 contracts for buying pricy electricity from private sector power plants with about 2,000MW combined capacity for 5-15 years.
Contracts for installation and operation of two floating storage and re-gasification terminals under construction on Moheshkhali Island in Cox’s Bazar to facilitate import of liquefied natural gas and supply gas after re-gasification were also awarded under the act.
Contracts for supplying 500 million cubic feet of gas from imported LNG and installation and operation of a 726MW power plant to be set up by India’s Reliance in Bangladesh were awarded without bidding.
Four other projects were also awarded for LNG storage and re-gasification service from floating and land-based terminals bypassing tenders.
In the same way, India’s Adani bagged a contract to supply electricity to Bangladesh from a 1,600MW plant to be installed in Jharkhand.
Oil and gas exploration, production, transmission and distribution utilities under Petrobangla have also awarded many contracts bypassing tenders, including drilling of 17 gas wells at different locations at more than twice the prices at which state-run Bapex did the same job.
A number of big projects related to installation of gas pipelines and compressors were also awarded bypassing tenders.
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