• Engineers point out ‘wrongdoing’ in Gepco, Mepco
• Ministry asks Discos to submit report

LAHORE: Expressing dismay over purchase of 132kV circuit breakers worth millions of rupees by the distribution companies from blacklisted firms through local suppliers, the Ministry of Energy has asked all the Discos to submit a report on the issue.

The report has been sought after the engineering associations of Gujra­nwala Electric Power Company (Gepco) and Multan Electric Power Company (Mepco) filed written complaints about the purchases, Dawn has learnt.

“I…wonder how Discos, especially Gepco and Multan Electric Power Com­pany, are daring placing purchase orders to the local firms involved in buying circuit breakers and other parts / equipm­ent from the blacklisted firms,” deplored an official.

“Also, the Asian Development Bank in a recent communication imposed a ban for two years on an international company in this regard. And the same company is selling circuit breakers etc to the local companies to whom Gepco and Mepco placed purchase orders worth nearly Rs1 billion,” the official requesting anonymity explained.

He further said that when Faisalabad Electric Supply Company came to know about it, its management declined to make purchases from the local manufacturers allegedly involved in buying the material from the blacklisted firms.

Documents available with Dawn reveal that the Power Division has directed the CEOs of all Discos to submit their reports on the matter at their earliest.

“Kindly find enclosed herewith a copy of application — titled Corruption in Gepco Tender No. NCB-23 for supply of 132kV circuit breakers and Mepco tender and corruption in other Discos regarding purchase of 132kV circuit breakers through collusive, coercive and obstructive practices — received from the Gepco and Mepco engineers associations which is self-explanatory. It is requested to furnish report to this division at the earliest,” said the ministry’s letter written by the section officer (Disco-II).

The engineers associations, in their letter to the ministry, revealed that the officers working in Discos (especially Gepco and Mepco) broke all record of corrupt, collusive, coercive and obstructive practices to support the mafia of local suppliers / agents.

“These firms / agents supply imported equipment to Discos from various foreign companies. They have strong ties in the Discos procurement departments,” said the associations.

They wondered why these Discos were purchasing circuit breakers, which are already available at far less price with other companies, from firms for Rs10m (each) higher rate.

“We request [you] to hold an investigation into this matter and direct all Discos to provide list of their purchase orders issued to various firms,” the associations said.

While appending various documentary proofs with their complaint, the associations also desired to depute an honest officer as inquiry officer along with an expert from the PPRA to conduct the probe.

“The corruption in Discos is a writing on the wall and it is crystal clear from the content of the complaint,” they said.

A letter issued by the ADB’s Office of Anticorruption and Integrity also mentions a foreign firm engaged in the fraudulent practice by submitting falsified compliance test certificates in its bid for a contract financed under a project.

The ADB letter specifically states, “The debarment is for two years starting from 26-05-2023 till 26-05-2025 and extends to all its subsidiaries and branches.”

When contacted, a senior official of the ministry told Dawn the ministry generally doesn’t interfere into the Discos’ affairs since they are independent and are being regulated by their board of directors.

“The officers concerned in the ministry seek report and forward [it] to Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA), [which is] a state-owned entity mandated to regulate all procurement-related affairs in the public sector,” he said.

“The ministry can intervene and order for an inquiry. But it can be challenged by the company in a court of law since PPRA is [the] body that can investigate such irregularities,” he pointed out, adding that the officers concerned in the ministry must be following this issue.

The CEOs of Gepco and Mepco were not available for comment.

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2024

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