I CAN’T help telling the truth about the cosmetic proceedings of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) public hearing held in Karachi on Sept 21 for the knowledge of Supreme Court of Pakistan and the public at large.
I was myself present there. The Nepra chairman wrapped up the proceedings at 1pm — three hours earlier than the schedule — amid what seemed like a pre-planned disturbance staged by a section of audience at the venue of the hearing.
It would be pertinent to note that Nepra had given just three days to submit comments on a day’s notice and then arranged the public hearing on a day’s notice, finally concluding the same before time.
This does not show seriousness on the part of Nepra for collecting public feedback on the issue of ‘exclusivity’ of K-Electric in the power supply sector for Karachi. In fact, it seems to be an open secret that the ‘public hearing’ was conducted by Nepra for face-saving or merely as a formality to show compliance with the orders of the Supreme Court.
In this public hearing, the proceedings were also suspended for half-an-hour and, when it was resumed, KE was allowed ample time to present its views and defend its case of ‘exclusivity’.
KE’s claim of improvement does not meet the facts on the ground. It was surprising that the Nepra chairman has time and again wasted the valuable time of participants by reminding them of his powers.
The genuine voice of KE customers was generally suppressed and not permitted to be raised on the occasion at all except for a lady complainant from DHA. In short, just a few were given the opportunity to speak.
It appears that Nepra chose only a few citizens of Karachi out of about 100 persons who had sent written comments to Nepra in response to its Sept 5 notice.
In a well-attended public hearing, only a few businessmen, three politicians, a lady and some planted people were allowed to speak whereas other stakeholders present at the meeting were deliberately ignored.
The claim of heavy investments and improvement of power delivery systems in Karachi made by KE has to be checked and scrutinised by experts.
The PCSIR, PSQCA and Sindh Electric Inspectorate are the relevant forums to check the infrastructure whereas the auditor-general of Pakistan, assisted by FBR, SECP and Competition Commission, is competent to scrutinise and audit the investment KE claims to have made in Karachi.
The auditor-general should also be asked to conduct a forensic audit of fake or excessive billing done by KE during the last 15 years of privatisation.
It appears that Nepra has already taken a decision in respect of KE’s ‘exclusivity’ which is otherwise a ‘monopoly’ in Karachi’s power sector. The people of Karachi have a bitter experience of private utility services. This has also damaged the image of the private sector as a whole and people cannot favour further experiments.
Why don’t we consider reverting to the public sector for power supply in the metropolis as practised elsewhere in the country? Discrimination by utility services against Karachi is not understandable.
Mahfooz un Nabi Khan
Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2020