ISLAMABAD: As the government decided not to increase tariff of K-Electric (KE) immediately but in pha­ses, the National Acco­untability Bureau (NAB) took notice on complaints of frequent unannounced loa­d­shedding and overbilling in Karachi and ordered initiating an inquiry against the company.

The decision to increase the KE tariff in phases was taken at a meeting presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday. The meeting discussed the issue of KE tariff and gas prices and the prime minister decided to apprise the people of the factual position of increasing the power tariff.

Federal ministers Shibli Faraz, Pervaiz Khattak, Dr Fehmida Mirza, Aminul Haq, Asad Umar, Omar Ayub Khan and Moham­me­dmian Soomro, PM’s advisers Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and Dr Ishrat Hussain, National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan and PM’s specials assistants Dr Shahbaz Gill, Nadeem Babar and Shahzad Qasim attended the meeting.

The meeting was informed that power tariff was increased countrywide in January this year on the recommendations of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra), but that of KE was not raised and the federal government was paying a subsidy of Rs3-4 billion per month to the company.

It was told that local gas production was insufficient to meet the country’s needs, compelling the government to import gas and there was a clear difference between the prices of local and imp­orted gas. The meeting was apprised that only 27 per cent of the country’s population was being supplied piped gas at a low cost, while the rest was using LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) by paying a far higher price.

The prime minister direc­ted the authorities conce­rned to prepare a comprehensive strategy to provide relief to the masses and emphasised the need for finding a durable solution to the problem through consultation.

NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal ordered an inquiry agai­nst K-Electric on complaints about frequent un­ann­ounced loadshedding in Karachi, overbilling and violations of an agreement with the federal government for developing the power utility’s infrastructure.

“NAB Karachi will initiate the inquiry while taking notice of public complaints and media reports about prolonged power outages and overbilling worth ‘billions of rupees’ on part of KE,” the anti-graft watchdog announced.

K-Electric is also accused of “not complying fully” with an agreement it had reached with the federal government under which the company was required to carry out necessary investment for developing its supply system on modern lines.

According to a press release, the bureau chairman directed the NAB Karachi to obtain a copy of the agreement reached with KE, details of investment made by the company and other relevant documents. Justice Iqbal said that NAB being a “national institution” believed in performing its duty as per the law and it would “not allow” KE to seize billions of rupees from the citizens through alleged overbilling and violate the agreement.

He directed the NAB Karachi to complete the inquiry against K-Electric within three months so that those looting the public could be brought to book as the bureau believed in accountability without any discrimination.

The people of Karachi have been enduring prolonged loadshedding since the start of the current sizzling heat amid coronavirus smart lockdowns in several parts of the city.

Nepra had on Friday last week formed a committee to visit Karachi and probe complaints about “excessive” loadshedding by KE. The power regulator had taken notice of the complaints had last month and directed KE to submit a detailed report in this regard.

Nepra sprang into action after many residents took to the streets in protest against power outages and blocked main roads and highways to bring the issue to the notice of the relevant authorities.

The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf had also launched a protest campaign and staged a sit-in outside the KE head office earlier this month to protest “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.

On Wednesday, KE Chief Executive Officer Moonis Alvi claimed that the loadshedding being carried out in Karachi was in line with the National Power Policy 2013 and on account of power theft.

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2020