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Power sector sees growing tumult

Updated May 20, 2018

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LAHORE: In a major development on Saturday, the Power Division surprisingly removed the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco) for improper management of load shedding schedules, though sources in the company say the decision was taken due to his unwillingness to follow “unjustified verbal orders” coming from the ministry.

Sources term removal of Pesco chief Zakaullah Gandapur a fresh issue along with some previous ones that finally forced the Power Division’s Federal Secretary Yousaf Naseem Khokhar to go on leave for the remaining period of the sitting government ending on May 31.

The Power Division had appointed Mr Gandapur as Pesco Chief in February this year after it removed CEOs of four Discos including Lahore Electric Supply Company’s Chief Syed Wajid Kazmi, Pesco’s head Syed Shabir Jilani, Quetta Electric Supply Company’s CEO Rehmat Ullah Baloch and chief of Sukkar Electric Power Company Abdul Latif Anjum on the pretext of ‘poor performance’.

Read more: Huge power breakdown cripples life in KP, Punjab

With fresh orders, Mr Gandapur is perhaps the first CEO of a Disco who was removed after a shortest period of three months or so.

“General Manager Mr Amjad Khan, presently posted temporary as CEO of the Tribal Electricity Supply Company (Tesco), is transferred as GM in Pesco and is assigned to look after the work of CEO Pesco with immediate effect and until further orders purely on temporary basis as a stop gap arrangement,” read an office order issued by the Power Division on Friday evening (May 18).

“Upon transfer of Mr Amjad Khan from Tesco, Mian Muhammad Hamid, Chief Engineer (Customer Services Director), Pesco is transferred in Tesco and is assigned to look after the work of CEO Tesco with immediate effect and until further orders purely on temporary basis as a stop gap arrangement,” the order adds.

Sources claim that when the proposal seeking immediate transfer of Mr Gandapur was put up before the Power Division, the Federal Secretary sought some detail/justification behind the issue.

“The file was put before the secretary some days ago. After studying the proposal, he (the secretary) commented by writing that ‘whether the performance indicators or parameters declined due to appointment of incumbent officer or not? And if declined, then put up the relevant data,” a Power Division official told Dawn while desiring not to be quoted.

The official said when the secretary sent back the file to the department concerned in the ministry on Thursday; no one had a valid reason to satisfy the secretary.

Finally, the department again moved the file to secretary, stating that Minister for Power Awais Leghari desired to do so. However, Mr Khokhar kept the file in his office, showing disagreement with the proposal.

But on Friday evening, the ministry issued orders to remove Mr Gandapur from the office of Pesco CEO directly on the orders of the power minister without getting approval from the secretary.

While commenting over the proposal, the secretary also termed the earlier direct orders of the ministry illogical about removal of four CEOs.

“If nothing improved due to removal of four CEOs in February, this year, what will change if we replace the CEO that was appointed just couple of months ago. Therefore, changing of Discos’ heads in such way cannot be appreciated,” the source quoted Mr Khokhar as having said.

The official claimed that the decision of removing four CEOs was also taken at the time when the secretary was on bed rest because of his illness.

That time, the secretary was of the view that removal of Discos’ chiefs repeatedly was no way to improve governance.

Talking about reasons behind the Mr Gandapur’s removal, the official claimed that the ministry became annoyed with him on some issues, including some complaints against him from a powerful PML-N personality in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa.

“If the feeders are shut in high loss/power theft areas under a policy matter, the bosses at Pepco unnecessarily held him responsible. And he (Mr Gandapur) was also questioned whenever the feeders tripped due to weather condition,” he said.

Similarly, the powerful ruling party’s personality and his workers were also unhappy with Mr Gandapur for not entertaining the requests for installing or changing transformers in various areas, the source believed.

When contacted, MD Pepco Masaddiq Khan declined to comment, stating that he was not authorised to speak on the issue. However, a spokesman for the Power Division said the removal was “because of his bad performance.”

“The CEO had failed to deliver” the spokesman said, “especially with the issues related to load management.”

When asked how the ministry could judge the performance of a CEO in a short span of time, the spokesman said it could be judged easily.

Asked why the CEO was changed despite the fact the Federal Secretary had opposed the decision, he said: “All, including the power minister, additional secretary, etc. had agreed to remove him. And if the secretary gave a dissenting note, it was his own opinion.”

When contacted, Power Division Minister Awais Khan Legari said the Pesco chief was removed after he failed to fulfill parameters set in the matrix that evaluate performance of the CEOs.

“When I took over charge about 6 months ago, I had introduced this performance criterion that was not exist in the ministry before. Under this criterion, we selected good performing 60 officers. So, Mr Gandapur was appointed as Pesco CEO. But he couldn’t perform unluckily,” he explained. He said following the criterion, Mr Amjad Khan was next to Gandapur who was appointed CEO, Pesco.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2018