NAB chairman orders inquiry against KE for unannounced load-shedding, over-billing

16 Jul 2020

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NAB Chairman retired justice Javed Iqbal issued directions for the inquiry to be completed in three months. — DawnNewsTV/File
NAB Chairman retired justice Javed Iqbal issued directions for the inquiry to be completed in three months. — DawnNewsTV/File

National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Javed Iqbal on Thursday ordered an inquiry against the K-Electric (KE) over complaints of frequent unannounced electricity load-shedding in Karachi, over-billing and violations of an agreement with the federal government for developing the power utility's infrastructure.

Iqbal ordered NAB Karachi to initiate the inquiry while taking notice of public complaints and media reports about prolonged power outages and over-billing worth "billions of rupees" on part of the KE, according to Nawazish Ali, a spokesperson for the accountability watchdog.

The company is also accused of "allegedly not complying fully" with an agreement it had reached with the government under which it was required to carry out necessary investment for developing the electricity supply system on modern lines, Ali said in a statement.

The bureau's chairman has directed NAB Karachi to obtain a copy of the agreement entered into by KE, details of the investment done by it and other relevant documents.

The press release quoted Iqbal as saying that NAB being a "national institution" believes in performing its duty as per the law and it will "not allow" the KE to seize billions from the citizens in alleged over-billing and violate the agreement.

"The NAB chairman directed NAB Karachi to complete the inquiry against the K-Electric within three months so that the ones looting the public can be brought to book," it said, adding that the bureau believes in accountability without any discrimination.

Residents of Karachi have in recent weeks complained about frequent unannounced power outages that have added to the misery of soaring temperatures and the coronavirus outbreak.

Last Friday, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) had formed a committee to visit Karachi and probe complaints of "excessive" load-shedding by KE.

Unannounced outages

Last month, Nepra had taken notice of complaints regarding continuing unannounced load-shedding in Karachi and directed the power utility to submit a detailed report in this regard.

The body had also noted that inflated electricity bills were being charged to consumers.

The power regulatory authority had taken up the issue as many residents took to the streets to protest the power outages, blocking main roads and highways to bring the issue to the attention of the relevant authorities.

The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf too had launched a protest campaign and staged a sit-in outside the KE head office earlier this month to protest the “atrocities” of the power utility, demanding an end to its monopoly on electricity generation, transmission and distribution and vowing to approach Nepra and the Supreme Court against KE.

For its part, KE had attributed the power outages to fuel shortage, especially shortage of furnace oil, in the country.

On Wednesday, KE chief executive officer Moonis Alvi said that the load-shedding being carried out in Karachi was in line with the National Power Policy 2013 and was purely on account of power theft.

“Even in areas with extremely high levels of power theft, cumulative loadshed hours do not exceed eight hours,” he said, adding that load-shedding schedules were uploaded to the KE website daily and SMS sent to all customers registered with its 8119 SMS service.