‘Incompetent’ KUKL board chair to remain in power

Published On: February 4, 2017 08:54 AM NPT By: Rudra Pangeni  | @rudrapang

Reconciliation follows months of deferral in court

KATHMANDU, Feb 4: A board meeting of Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Ltd (KUKL) held on Wednesday has agreed on mediation on a court case filed by its chairman Suresh Basnet, allowing Basnet to remains as chair.  

A decision to seek reconciliation was made on a proposal by Basnet himself. Following the board’s decision of Wednesday, Basnet will withdraw the case from the court while the rest of the board members will have to withdraw the eight counts of accusations they charged Basnet with, including inefficiency, incompetence, and irresponsible for the organization. 

Five of the nine board members have signed on to the deal, ensuring a majority approval for the decision written without any a formal meeting. Basnet, Under Secretary Kumar Koirala, Joint Secretary Ghanashyam Bhattarai, and independent members Maheshwor Bhakta Shrestha and Hari Gopal Shrestha have signed the minutes of the meeting. 

The reconciliation agenda was tabled at an earlier board meeting on Tuesday but was rejected by all board members. A source said the meeting which approved the same agenda was organized at an undisclosed ministry while the government representatives and two independent board members were forced to sign the agenda. The other members were absent at the meeting as they had very little notice about the meeting, the source said.

The KUKL management and other people have expressed worry about the decision and say this was only a twist in the court case for securing his post in the entity which is ill-prepared for the distribution of the Melamchi Project water which may reach Kathmandu by the end of October. Basnet’s high-handedness has put the entity in dire straits, they say. He has remained chairman since the entity was formed nine years ago. 

“The reconciliation was decided by a partially-attended meeting and this has put the entity in further uncertainty,” a high-level source at KUKL added seeking anonymity. The next hearing on the case was scheduled for February 19 and KUKL officials had said they were hopeful of a final verdict. A board member, who sought to remain unnamed and did not sign on the minutes, expressed surprise that such a decision was made at a ministry without letting the courts decide on it. 

“We had all agreed the blame was on Basnet as per direction from the erstwhile Minister of Urban Development which called Basnet incompetence and inefficient. But the ministry now wants to protect him,” the board member said. 

Basnet had filed a case at the court challenging an appellate court’s verdict about his chairmanship and had got a stay order. But Basnet himself deferred several court hearings for over a year and half citing different reasons. 

Water Supply and Sanitation Secretary Bhim Prasad Upadhyaya said officials had intervened to sort out the chronic differences as part of taking responsibility for the smooth supply of water from the Melamchi Project. 

“I tried for three months for this and were now we have been successful in ending the blame game between KUKL chairman Basnet and other board members,” Upadhyaya said, adding a ministry will claim leadership of KUKL after the 5th annual general meeting (AGM) scheduled for March 5. The first board meeting after the AGM can choose a new chair. 

The government and its local bodies own over 75 percent of the entity formed for the smooth supply of drinking water in Kathmandu. But it has suffered from poor management and over politicization since 2008, stakeholders say.

Tuesday’s meeting set the term for its chairman and board members term at two years. This is a change from a previous provision of only omitting the chairman by a majority vote of board members.

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