KARACHI: The City Council approved on Friday Karachi’s Rs26.44 billion surplus budget for the financial year 2019-20 in a meeting held in an unprecedented manner on the lawns of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation as the power supply of its head office was disconnected due to non-payment of dues to the power utility.
The council meeting, presided over by Mayor Wasim Akhtar, vehemently criticised K-Electric for disconnecting the power connection of the municipal administration as members from the treasury and opposition benches happened to sit together with hand fans and water bottles in their hands.
Addressing the local government representatives, the mayor said it was a matter of shame that municipal administration of the sixth biggest city of the world was compelled to hold its meeting in the open air.
The meeting is held in the open air after KE disconnects power supply to KMC head office
He informed the participants that the power supply of the engineering department and their head office was disconnected.
The mayor accepted that the municipal administration was a defaulter to power utility, but added that the outstanding bills dated back to 2010.
He said that the elected council inherited the liability of Rs4.5bn and efforts were under way for settling the issue with the power utility.
‘KE owes KMC Rs8bn’
He said that the power utility also had to pay the KMC Rs8bn for using KMC’s land for their electric installations and poles.
The mayor said that the KMC was able to convince KE to bring down their outstanding bills to Rs2bn.
The case then went to court where it was decided that the KMC will pay Rs580m for its 71 electric connections and rest of the amount would be settled through reconciliation, he said.
However, he said, due to the KMC’s severe financial problems the court ordered the Sindh government to increase its monthly grants so that it could pay off its debts.
The mayor said that the KMC had to pay Rs50m monthly to KE, but the municipal administration did not have money.
Opposition leader Karamullah Waqasi of the Pakistan Peoples Party came down heavily on the mayor asking him how he could prepare and approve a surplus budget despite financial woes of the municipal administration.
He said that the mayor did not accept the opposition as he did not include any scheme in opposition’s union committees (UCs) in the last three budgets.
The PPP leader said that Rs4bn had been allocated for the health sector. “The Abbasi Shaheed Hospital’s budget is Rs1.08bn and it has 2,100 employees, while hardly 400 attend the hospital,” he said and asked the mayor to investigate the matter.
Similarly, he said, there were 1,500 city wardens and the mayor had himself accepted that hardly 700 were on duty.
‘Karachi needs Rs500bn’
Khalil ur Rehman of the ruling Muttahida Qaumi Movement said that Rs1.7bn allocation for the engineering department was quite less.
He pointed out that health was actually the subject of the provincial government, for which the council has allocated a handsome amount.
Council member Meraj Shah belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced a Rs162bn package for the city, but it should be at least Rs500bn.
Junaid Mukati, opposition leader belonging to the Jamaat-i-Islami, said that the residents of the city had been paying hefty taxes for the past 72 years.
He said that the city gave Rs2 trillion in tax and at least Rs500bn was the city’s right from the government. “Now it’s time Karachi spends its tax on itself,” he added.
Rejecting the budget, Mukati also tore the copy of the budget document and snapped that not a single scheme was included from his UC.
Meanwhile, KE said in a statement that multiple power connections of KMC had been disconnected on Friday on account of non-payment of monthly electricity bills as the municipal body still owed Rs4.11bn to the power utility.
A court had directed the KMC to pay monthly electricity bills from April onwards to KE out of which no payment had been made since the court order was issued in April, it said.
KE had served several notices to the KMC for payment of monthly electricity bills before disconnection. The KE urged authorities concerned to pay outstanding dues as per the court orders at the earliest.
It also condemned damage to its property at one of its offices allegedly by the KMC later in the day.
Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2019