ISLAMABAD: The power ministry and its companies came under severe criticism on Wednesday from the ruling party and opposition lawmakers over alleged corruption, mismanagement and lack of progress on development activities in the power sector.
While members of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz walked out of a meeting of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Energy in protest, alleging that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government had stopped development schemes in advanced stages of completion, the PTI lawmakers, including ex-finance minister Asad Umar, threatened to revive their party’s tradition of holding a dharna (sit-in) outside parliament over non-provision of electricity connections.
A number of members of the opposition and the ruling party also alleged massive corruption in distribution companies in matters of replacement of faulty transformers.
The meeting was presided over by Imran Khattak of the PTI.
Minister for Energy Omar Ayub Khan and Power Secretary Irfan Ali were upfront in conceding that they were fighting against the transformer mafia in distribution companies and promised to reform the sector to address these challenges.
PML-N lawmakers walk out of NA panel meeting; PTI members threaten sit-in over non-provision of electricity connections
The PML-N lawmakers walked out of the committee at the beginning while criticising the government for not issuing work orders and releasing funds for various approved development schemes carried out by the previous government. They said these were approved schemes, but the PTI was deliberately holding back their funds in the constituencies were PMLN members won the elections.
Murtaza Javed Abbasi, Barjees Tahir, Riaz Hussain Pirzada and Khurram Dastagir of the PML-N told the committee that these were not PTI’s personal funds, regretting that the PTI was not setting a good precedent.
Asad Umar reminded them that an MNA from Islamabad had been provided Rs55 billion for development schemes over the past five years, but he (Mr Umar) could not secure a single penny for his constituency. He said it was a routine norm and no one should worry about it.
Shazia Marri of the Pakistan Peoples Party said that genuine concerns of the opposition MNAs should be addressed.
Umar Ayub assured the committee that all projects in the pipeline would be completed.
Committee chairman Khattak said he would take a decision on delay in execution of opposition members’ developmental schemes.
PTI MNAs from Islamabad protested non-issuance of electricity and gas meters in the Islamabad Capital Territory without any legal backing. Asad Umar said the utilities were not providing connections on the orders of the Capital Development Authority. “CDA is not their regulator. Nepra [National Electric Power Regulatory Authority] had issued written guidelines following orders of the Supreme Court to provide connections,” he said, adding that the power ministry had promised to call a meeting on the issue but failed to honour its commitment despite his 12 attempts.
The former finance minister said he along with Ali Nawaz Awan and Khurram Shahazad (MNAs from Islamabad) would hold a dharna outside parliament on Monday. He said the electricity company was not ready to provide connection through legal means and hiding behind the CDA because they charged fixed amounts from consumers to provide meters. He challenged the power minister to name a consumer of his choice and he would get a connection through illegal means.
Minister Omar Ayub convinced them to hold a meeting with him on Monday to resolve the issue.
PTI lawmaker Noor Alam Khan expressed reservations over non-availability of the federal minister for energy and said that there was a massive loadshedding in a Peshawar area, but despite being a ruling party MNA he was unable to contact the minister. He said that politicians were abused, but in fact officials of the power ministry and distribution companies were involved in corruption and power theft.
Not only Noor Alam but other members, including Junaid Akbar and Shazia Marri, said the distribution companies were forcing consumers to chip in money for replacement or repair of transformers. They said that as MNAs they were compelled to provide Rs30,000 to Rs60,000 from their pockets to get transformers in their constituencies repaired.
Omar Ayub said his doors were always open to parliamentarians, including those of the opposition. He said the collection of funds from power consumers by the staff were totally illegal, pure corruption and hence unacceptable. He asked the MNAs to provide evidence so that proceedings could be initiated in such cases.
The minister said there were three main losses areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — D.I. Khan, Bannu and Peshawar — and conceded that there were some black sheep in the system, but steps were being taken to remove them. He said electricity theft had been considerably reduced in the country and 80 per cent feeders had been cleared from loadshedding as a result. Officials taking bribe for changing transformers would be given exemplary punishments, he added.
The committee expressed dissatisfaction over the briefing by K-Electric authorities on deaths caused by electrocution during recent torrential rain in Karachi and asked the Nepra chairman to submit a detailed report on the matter.
K-Electric chief Moonis Alvi said a total of 33 deaths had been reported, including 11 inside houses due to internal wiring faults and 18 owing to kunda or TV cable network. He said the sewerage system of Karachi was also one factor in this regard. He said Nepra was conducting an inquiry into the matter, while the power utility was also holding an internal inquiry.
Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2019