ISLAMABAD: In a rare move and without prior notice, the Senate Standing Committee on Power served a summons on the chairman and members of the National Electric Power Regulatory Autho­rity (Nepra) to appear before the panel after they skipped a meeting on Thursday.

“The committee expressed displeasure over the absence of chairman Nepra and its members and decided to issue a summons for chairman Nepra and all its members to attend the next meeting,” the committee said in a written statement following discussions in the meeting.

The senators also expressed displeasure at the absence of Caretaker Power Minister Muhammad Ali and Power Division Secretary Rashid Langrial.

The Senate committee meeting was presided over by PTI Senator Saifullah Abro, who also ordered that a case be registered against the then power minister and secretary for extending a power-purchase agreement in June 2021 with the Kot Addu Power Company (Kapco).

Interestingly, Nepra sources told Dawn that the Senate committee or its secretariat had not even invited the power regulator’s chairman or any member.

Nepra is a quasi-judicial institution set up under an act of parliament to regulate the power sector’s matters, including private investors, public sector companies and electricity consumers.

The sources said that whenever invited by the parliamentary committees, the Nepra chairman, a member or any senior officer had always attended the meeting to give the regulator’s input.

More interestingly, the notice issued by the Senate panel’s meeting on Thursday did not even mention Nepra or its office among the list of over four dozen offices and individuals “for information, necessary action or attendance”.

Call for reshuffling Discos’ execs

In its meeting, the Senate committee applauded the power division for taking action against electricity theft and line losses in different distribution companies (Discos).

Arshad Majid, additional secretary of the power division, told the meeting that about Rs1bn was recovered in the last few days and the division had also reshuffled officers of various Discos to ensure the work efficiently.

Senator Abro suggested that the power division should also reshuffle chief executives and the boards of directors of various Discos and relevant authorities who had allegedly acted with bad intentions and negatively affected the power sector’s capacity.

The meeting expressed annoyance over the non-implementation of the committee’s recommendations relating to a 765-kilovolt double circuit transmission line from the Dasu Hydro Power Station to Islamabad. Some senators observed that there was a triangle operating through a multilateral lending agency and the National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC) that appeared to have manipulated the procurement process.

Mr Majeed told the panel that the power division had formed a committee to investigate the matter and the report would be submitted once complete.

Senator Abro reiterated that the committee had explicitly identified irregularities in the bidding process for building the 765kV transmission line, but the power division had not taken action against the officials concerned despite several recommendations.

“The formation of the committee is prerogative of the NTDC, and the letter written by the power division to the World Bank to identify procurement mismanagement in the bidding process holds no legal standing,” he said.

Discussing the details of CPEC power plants, the power division informed the Senate committee that 16 power plants, mostly wind and solar, were part of the multibillion-dollar project. Besides, the number of independent power producers (IPPs) in the country stood at 136, it said.

The committee inquired about the government’s stance on Kapco whose power purchase agreement (PPA) expired in June 2021.

When Senator Saifullah Abro asked for how many years gas and furnace oil had been provided to Kapco Power Plant, the power division failed to provide a response.

The senator recommended that the power division should investigate allegations of illegal extension of the purchase agreement with Kapco.

He lamented that at the same time, the power division had shut down Muzaffargarh and Jamshoro power plants and criticised the power division for not providing them with sufficient gas. He wondered why the power division strived to shut down public power plants.

The power division told the committee that the power purchase agreement was extended because it was one of the efficient plants, while the Jamshoro and Muzaffargarh plants were closed because they were on the lowest level of efficiency.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2023

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