KSEB in a spot after laying Chinese cables for KFON with Central funds

The KSEB and the KSITIL have 49% share each in the KFON project. Photo: Manorama

Thiruvananthapuram: An audit revelation that Chinese-origin cables were used for the Kerala Fibre Optic Network (KFON) project has put the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) in a quandary.

The KSEB, which had received Central funds to meet the expenses for laying Optical Ground Wire (OPGW) cables for the project, had insisted on domestic products in order to conform to the ‘Make in India’ initiative aimed at giving a fillip to the domestic manufacturing sector.

The Centre had allotted money under the Power System Development Fund (PSDF) to the KSEB and it was utilized for laying KFON cables.

However, much to the chagrin of the KSEB, the Kerala State IT Infrastructure Limited (KSITIL) used China-origin cables supplied by a firm named LS Cable and System, ignoring the concerns expressed by the former. Incidentally, the payment for LS Cable has to be made by the KSEB and this amount is yet to be paid.

The KSEB and the KSITIL have 49% share each in the KFON project.

The ongoing audit revealed the KSITIL flouted the tender condition that only equipment designed, manufactured, tested, and bought from Indian manufacturers should be used for the high-speed internet project.

The KSEB had earlier mooted a project to lay OPGW cables for the project. It decided to join the project as a partner when the state government announced the ambitious project.

PSDF scheme

The PSDF scheme was approved by the Union Power Ministry based on a recommendation of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission to improve and modernize the power distribution network in states. The nodal agency of the project is National Load Despatch Centre (NLDC), which prepares the plans for projects, carries out examination and releases funds.

The KSEB, which is supposed to pay LS Cable and System with money received under PSDF scheme, has not so far transferred an amount of Rs 80 crore for laying 2,500 km of cables.

Officials said the Central government is likely to carry out an inspection to confirm whether all guidelines of the PSDF scheme were followed in the KFON project.

As reported earlier the auditor has asked the KSITIL for clarifications. The audit has been going on for the past four months. The audit report will be prepared only after the response is received.

The KSITIL reportedly thwarted the bid of a technical committee of the KSEB for scrutiny. During the auditing, the KSEB stated that it had come to know that the cables were of Chinese origin very late and that it had informed KSITIL of the “high risk” involved in using the product.   

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