LAHORE: A delay in the procurement of transformers, single and three-phase meters and other material by the Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco) has not only affected the routine field operations but also opened various ways of corruption in the company.

The company is dealing with around six million consumers with 223 200KVA transformers, 144 single-phase and 194 three-phase electricity meters in its stock, giving room to its field formations to fleece consumers on the pretext of overbilling and overage billing, brownouts, line losses and other technical issues.

“Complaints about the delayed replacement of faulty meters with new ones, average billing on the pretext of faulty meters, overbilling through excess reading, inflated bills by disappearing images of the meter, and appearance of the meters (showing) other than the actual ones on the bills are rampant,” said an insider.

“There has been no procurement of meters, transformers and other material in the company for the last one and a half years.”

Even 15 to 30 feet cable supplying electricity to consumers from the low-tension (LT) wires is to be bought by the consumer in case of replacement.

According to another official source, Lesco also suffered the loss of millions due to continuous delays in the procurement of distribution transformers and meters.

The tender was floated by Lesco Material Management Section for the procurement of 1,450 transformers of 200KVA on April 23. After technical and financial evaluation, two firms were declared responsive (eligible) by the evaluation committee. The design directorate declared the results with the recommendation to award the procurement contract for Rs646,000 (each transformer). But the procurement committee and the BOD disapproved the bid despite recommendations, a source told Dawn.

The same tender was previously floated on Dec 22, 2020. That time, the same companies had participated. The rates quoted by the lowest responsive declared firm by the Lesco design directorate was Rs549,350 per transformer — Rs100,000 (approx) cheaper than the April 23, 2021, tender.

Due to the Covid situation across the globe, the rates of copper — a core component of the transformer -- besides steel and oil and other material increased.

“The story does not end here as the same tenders were floated three times and the same companies participated. And in the last tendering time, the same firm quoted Rs950, 000 rates per transformer that were available in Rs549,350 in December 2020,” the official claimed.

He said since Lahore continues to suffer due to the intentional delay in the procurement, it may face a Faisalabad-like situation in future when during Eid holidays, the entire Fesco distribution system collapsed mainly due to non-availability of distribution transformers and material. He said there were more than 10,000 distribution transformers in the Lesco system, but the company had only 223 transformers of 200KVA in its store.

Company’s material department chief Imran Mahmood told Dawn a tender was also floated on Tuesday.

“But the prices quoted were so high. So it is our duty to see the cost of the items and take decisions better in the interest of the company,” he said.

When asked about the delays in procurement leading to increasing costs and problems of the consumers, he admitted the fact, stating that how the company could purchase material at higher and unpredictable or unrealistic rates.

Published in Dawn, October 27th, 2021

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