Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday has suggested ending the free electricity facility available to the employees of the Power Division.
Interestingly, Power Division Secretary also backed the recommendation and proposed the provision of allowance in the salaries instead.
The meeting of the PAC chaired by Noor Alam Khan was held on Thursday.
As reported by SAMAA TV’s reporter Shakeel Ahmed, the power ministry secretary told PAC that last fiscal year, losses in the power sector nearly equaled Pakistan’s defence budget, reaching a whopping Rs1,100 billion while defence budget was around Rs1,300 billion.
The secretary apprised that the power division spent Rs2,000 billion, but the recoveries remained relatively lower and the gap between both heads was Rs800 billion.
He said that there are 28 million domestic power consumers in Pakistan while among them, some eight million were getting subsidies.
How the business can run if two-thirds of consumers were entitled to subsidies, he contended.
At this, PAC Chairman Noor Alam Khan asked why the employees of the Power Division were getting free electricity. In response to this question, he said there is a risk of chaos if free units are terminated immediately.
The secretary suggested that the employees should instead be given an allowance in their salaries instead of free power. He added that the power sector was ensnared in a trap, and they could not even cover the cost of production.
The secretary however admitted that were shortcomings and inadequacies on their part too.
PAC warns KE’s CEO
PAC Chairman Alam expressed extreme displeasure at the absence of the Chief Executive Office (CEO) of Karachi Electric (KE) company in the meeting.
He warned that they would get CEO’s arrest warrants issued if he remained absent in the next meeting.
“What do you [KE officials] think of the PAC? Ministers, Senators and MNAs are sitting here.”
The committee chairman said the people of Karachi are dying, but the electric company was not taking PAC seriously.
KE’s chief financial officer informed the PAC that the CEO was attending a meeting in the Prime Minister’s House.
Noor Alam said that the motorcyclists in Karachi die after running into electric poles.
He said that the entire country including Karachi is suffering the worst load-shedding and the people were on the roads because of it.
Further, the audit officials also presented a report of recoveries in the power sector made during the campaign against power theft.
They said that from July 2021 to June 2022, recoveries stood at Rs4.67 billion collected by 10 power distribution companies.
However, the officials said recoveries could not be made from 1.177 million defaulters nor their power supply was cut.
The committee also discussed the non-recovery of Rs93.16 billion of distribution companies (DISCOs) in 2018.
The committee member Afzal Dhandla said that the ‘big thieves’ collude with the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) and a small consumer bears the brunt.
The member Rohail Asghar suggested that DISCOS should have their own force to stop power theft.
PAC members gave vent to unannounced power outages across the country.
The power division secretary said that the load-shedding duration was more in the areas with more power pilferage.
At this, the chairman Alam asked why the schedule of the load-shedding was not issued.
Row over publicizing documents
Meanwhile, PTI’s Shibli Faraz and chairman Alam had a quarrel on the matter of sharing PAC’s documents in the media.
Alam said that there are many influential people in the country who nobody could dare to touch. He claimed of having a report on the usage of Rs14 billion in a single day and said that he would present it before the PAC with evidence.
He said the public should be aware of the questions their representatives raised and wished that the people be shown what was happening in the PAC.
However, PTI’s Senator Shibli Faraz strenuously objected to this suggestion and said that incomplete material should not be given to the media.
Profiteering at rest houses & incomplete highways
PAC also discussed profiteering at the rest houses on motorways.
The chairman said every item is sold for Rs50-Rs100 extra at the rest houses.
The committee also reviewed the audit report of the National Highway Authority (NHA) and expressed dissatisfaction with the poor condition of the motorways and GT Road.
The communications secretary informed the PAC that the repair work on Hakla-DI Khan Motorway was underway and revealed that the total payment was yet to be done. The committee member Talha Mahmood said that there was no space for petrol pumps and restaurants on the section.
Alam said they have received the report of accidents on the Hakla-DI Khan Motorway and suggested NA-5 should be renamed to ‘death road’.
He noted that the western route of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was constructed recently, but potholes have appeared on it already.
The chairman said that they do not want to see a single pothole on the Motorway M-2 track.
National Highways & Motorway Police (NHMP) Inspector General (IG) told the committee that they were facing a shortage of resources as well as manpower.
PAC directed to ensure the implementation of traffic rules on the motorway and improvement of the condition of GT Road.