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ISLAMABAD: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly has blamed the Ehtesab commission for the electricity crisis which adversely affected the country, especially during days of the Pakistan Peoples Party government.

On Tuesday, during scrutiny of an audit report on the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) accounts, the PAC chairman and Leader of the Opposition in the assembly, Syed Khurshid Shah, said that in 1994, the then PPP government had approved a power policy and invited independent power producers to operate in Pakistan to overcome the energy crisis.

He claimed that after the change in government, the then chairman of the Ehtesab commission, Saifur Rehman, threatened power producers and subsequently they preferred not to operate in Pakistan which resulted in an acute electricity shortage in the country.

Mr Shah shared this detail at a meeting at which the committee was examining a paragraph related to the Japan Power Generation Company which according to the audit report caused a loss of Rs5.47 billion to the national exchequer by not operating a 120 megawatts power plant.

Audit Director General Maqbool Gondal briefed the PAC about the case and said that the plant had remained closed over a long period and caused a loss of Rs5.47bn.

The chairman of the committee then asked the officials of the Ministry of Energy Power Division why the plant had remained shut during the most challenging time — however, they failed to satisfy the panel.

On their failure to give an appropriate response, Mr Shah snubbed them and said that no one was allowed to make false statements in parliament.

He directed the Auditor General of Pakistan to conduct an inquiry into the matter and submit a report to the PAC within a week.

Ministry of Energy Power Division Additional Secretary Zargham Ishaq Khan briefed the committee and said that efforts were under way to recover the amount mentioned from the Japanese company through mediators.

Committee member Syed Naveed Qamar asked the officials what amount had been recovered so far, to which Mr Khan replied “nearly Rs80 million”.

Mr Qamar then proceeded to ask him who would pay the rest. “The ministry must make all efforts to recover the full sum from the company,” he said.

Audit officials claimed that a loss of Rs3.4bn incurred to the national kitty by operating the plant on expensive furnace oil. Committee officials recommended that if majority of the plants had been transferred on imported liquefied natural gas, then other remaining plants should also be shifted to cheap fuels.

Talking to the panel, the power division officials said that in 2018 there would be no loadshedding across the country — other than those areas where recoveries were below a certain level.

According to the officials, the country had additional power production. They said that the minimum power demand during winter stood at 9,000 megawatts, while maximum at 13,000 megawatts. They added that currently, the country was producing 2,000 megawatts of additional electricity.

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2018