JBIC decision within a fortnight

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM May 9. The Japanese Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) has promised to get back to the Kerala Government on the question of floating fresh global tenders to select consultants for the Rs. 1,800-crore drinking water supply scheme within the coming 15 days, the Irrigation Minister,

T. M. Jacob, said here today.

Mr. Jacob told reporters after a meeting with the JBIC representatives here today that he had communicated the Cabinet decision to go in for fresh global tenders to the JBIC team and was told that a decision on the issue would be taken after discussions with their colleagues in New Delhi. The JBIC team, comprising Mr. Tomu Nomura, Mr. Kotaro Tanaka and Mr. P. Rajasekharan, told reporters that the matter was under discussion. The JBIC would stand by its offer to finance the scheme, they said.

The Irrigation Minister said that given the controversy surrounding the scheme, the Government was keen on ensuring total transparency in its revival. The entire procedures relating to the scheme would have to be gone through once again, but the Government proposed to stick to the original terms of the agreement signed in 1997 with the JBIC. The project outlay was likely to go up because of the time overrun. If everything progressed without any hitch, it would be possible to begin project implementation by November-December this year, he said.

Replying to questions, Mr. Jacob said the files did not show that the JBIC had insisted on Pacific Consultants International (PCI) being chosen as consultants for the scheme aimed at providing drinking water to some 40 lakh people. The project had run aground following a controversy over the selection of consultants. The Government had initially shortlisted five consultants and then raised it to seven.

An inquiry conducted by the then Public Works Secretary, Minnie Mathew, had come to the conclusion that mystery shrouded the addition of new names in the list of consultants. Although the LDF Government decided to float fresh tenders, it did not communicate this decision to the JBIC.

Asked about the Cabinet decision to order a CBI inquiry into the case, Mr. Jacob said the Government had written to the JBIC immediately after the decision was taken. Now it was for the CBI to take appropriate action in the matter, he added.

Besides the Irrigation Minister, the State Government was represented at the talks by K. S. Annamma, Additional Secretary, drinking water supply, Ramanujam, Managing Director, Kerala Water Authority, K. Mohandas, technical member, KWA, K. Lokesan Nair, chief engineer, and M. Ganesan, accounts member, KWA.

Mr. Jacob said the JBIC had assisted around 140 projects all over the country. Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir were the only States that had not so far availed assistance from the JBIC. Had the proposal for the drinking water supply project been implemented as scheduled, it would have made much headway by now. That would have benefited the people of Thiruvananthapuram city, several panchayats in Kannur, Chathannur and neighbouring areas of Kollam. The State Government had completed land acquisition and a cell headed by a Chief Engineer, set up to monitor the project implementation, was still in place, he said.

Asked what option the Government had in the event of the JBIC not agreeing to the proposal for floating fresh tenders, Mr. Jacob said that then the Government may well have to abandon the schemes proposed to be taken up with JBIC assistance.

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