LAHORE: Growing incidents related to burning of precious equipment and tripping at grid stations and transmission lines (132kV to 500kV)) are not only causing a huge financial loss to the public exchequer but also affecting smooth power transmission, despatch and distribution systems of the National Transmission and Despatch Company (NTDC) and the distribution companies (Discos).

The situation is worsening gradually as two major grid stations in Lahore division (500kV Sheikhupura and 220kV Kot Lakhpat) recently developed faults on the same day.

On the other hand, around three months ago, the NTDC after a probe revealed alleged involvement of the officers in procurement of substandard material (related to grid stations and transmission lines), leading to developing faults, burning of equipment, tripping, breakdown etc, Dawn has learnt.

“The cost of equipment (static VAR compensator) burnt at Kot Lakhpat grid on Monday is over Rs2bn. It was installed in 2018 with one year warranty. During the warranty and later, it went out of order for almost 10 times. The company, meanwhile, started writing to them (the vender/firm) over the issue. Finally, in November, the firm, after rectifying the fault, gave a one-month warranty,” an official source explains to Dawn.

“But on Monday, the same equipment again developed a fault. It seems the quality of equipment is not up to the mark. It shouldn’t have gone out of order as there is no load in winters,” he says.

Talking about a similar incident at 500kV Sheikhupura Grid Station that also caught fire, the official says the incident was caused by substandard material allegedly procured by the officers concerned.

“The transformer and allied equipment etc burnt at Sheikhupura were also very costly. But who cares?” he says.

It may be mentioned that besides the aforementioned untoward events, various other power breakdowns also occurred due to technical faults (burning of wires, cables, transformers, overloading etc). The major incidents included breakdown of 500kV/200kV Rawat double circuit transmission lines in May 2018, technical fault at 220kV Bund Road grid in July, 2019 and eruption of fire at 500kV Jamshoro grid and lines in June 2020. All these incidents led to power breakdowns, disrupting routine life of the country.

According to a an inquiry into the breach of confidentiality during the bid evaluation process for the 500kV Lahore-north grid station and extension works at 500kV/200kV/132kV Gakhar substation in September 2021, an NTDC team observed that officers/members of the bids evaluation committee were surprisingly given ‘full package’ for the preparation of bidding documents, evaluation of the documents they prepared and inspection of the material.

“Resultantly, due to monopoly of the officers with the bidders/contactors, the NTDC is procuring substandard material and for which, the NTDC would bear cost at a later stage,” the inquiry report warned.

The inquiry team, in its report, also recommended for preparation and evaluation of bidding documents and inspection of the material separately by the departments concerned instead of assigning all such important tasks to one officer. It also asked the senior officers concerned to improve transparency in the evaluation process, quality of material etc.

The NTDC managing director was not available for comments.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2022

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