Kathmandu: After becoming the Executive Director of the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) on August 15, 2013, Kulman Ghising, who has been in the media and social media for some time, remained in the spotlight till the last day of his tenure. Ghising’s publicity stunts have led political leaders and high-ranking government officials to accuse him of being a propagandist.
Ghising spoke about the allegations against him while spending his last day as an executive director at NEA on Tuesday. “I have been accused of being a propagandist. But I am not a campaigner, the media is interested in the authority, ‘he said in his farewell to the participating officials and employees of the authority.
A few weeks before the end of his term, there was a demand on social media that he should be re-appointed as the executive director of NEA. Ghising, who earned applause after freeing the Kathmandu Valley from load shedding in the same year he was appointed as the executive director, succeeded in announcing the end of load shedding in all regions from April 2018. In the year when Ghising was appointed executive director, there was a situation of load shedding for up to 18 hours during the dry season.
Ghising, who did not get a chance to repeat his tenure in the NEA despite intense public pressure, was accused of being a ‘propagandist’. “The government is irritated by the popularity of the individual,” said a source in the energy ministry. Despite public discussion and criticism from the political leadership, he has made some visible achievements in the NEA during his four-year tenure, which he shared with his colleagues on his last day. Along with power management, another achievement of Ghising is the financial condition of NEA. NEA, which had a accumulated deficit of around Rs 35 billion four years ago, became the most profitable office among government corporations last year. Reducing the 26 percent electricity leakage in the system four years ago to 15 percent is another achievement of the Ghising tenure.
Opponents have also accused Ghising of importing electricity from India and ending load shedding. He also responded to the allegations against him. “Electricity consumption has increased by 75 percent,” he said, “but the share of electricity imported from India has decreased.” He said that only 22 percent of the total consumption in Nepal was imported in the last fiscal year and 6 percent of the imported electricity was exported to India.
The work of laying underground wires, making them pole-free, connecting smart meters and automating the grid in the Kathmandu Valley also started during Ghising. But all these works were not completed during his tenure. 60 MW Trishuli Three, Chamelia and Kulekhani-3 sick projects were completed. During his tenure, Ghising did not complete the 456 MW Upper Tamakoshi project. The project, which is in the final stage of construction, could not be tested due to the absence of international experts.
He has also been accused of not paying attention to the need to build large and reservoir-based projects keeping in mind the future consumption. During his tenure, projects like 635 MW Dudhkoshi and 1,060 MW Upper Arun are in the process of raising financial resources but he has not materialized.
The plan to upgrade the Dhalkebar-Muzaffarpur transmission line to 400 KV, which was completed soon after Ghising became the executive director, was not completed. An investment framework has been prepared for the second international transmission line New Butwal-Gorakhpur. A company jointly owned by the Authority and the Central Electricity Authority of India is being set up for the construction of the transmission line.
Another achievement of Ghising’s tenure is the continuation of the meeting of the Electricity Exchange Committee for bringing electricity from the Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Since 2011, when the committee did not meet, the electricity tariff was increasing at the rate of 5 percent every year. However, the tariff on electricity imported from India has not increased since the committee met every year since 2017.
Despite all these achievements, his tenure was not without controversy. Towards the end of his term, he faced a dedicated and trunk tariff dispute. The industrialists became dissatisfied with Ghising saying that the NEA had sent a letter to the industries to collect the tariff of dedicated and trunk line by charging high fees during load shedding. He was also accused of failing to resolve the issue in time.
He has been accused of being ruthless towards the employees even though he has made the public image positive. The staff leaders were also angry with him after the NEA employees’ union officials introduced a system of regular attendance. Ghising has also been accused of manipulating the political leadership in the name of popularity.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli met Energy Minister Barshaman Pun a few years ago and expressed dissatisfaction that Ghising had not listened to the political leadership and had taken whatever work was done under the government’s plan. Although the party’s other chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s wish was repeated to Ghising, Pun did not take the re-appointment proposal to the cabinet. Instead, Lekhnath Koirala has been appointed acting executive director after Ghising’s term expires. Minister Pun’s press coordinator Dayanidhi Bhatta said that Urja Pun, who is also the chairperson of NEA’s board of directors, had appointed Koirala as the acting executive director on Tuesday.