Disappointed over the slow pace of utility bills recovery from defaulters in three provinces Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab State Minister for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali Wednesday said that power supply to Khyber Pakhtunkhawa will be disconnected if the province stopped paying power bills.
The minister had to make the statement after Awami national Party (ANP) Senator Ilyas Bilour quipped during question-hour in Senate that KP people should also stop paying their bills, as they don’t get their royalty despite regularly paying their power bills.
“KP is the province where people regularly pay their bills but even then other provinces are being praised despite being huge defaulters of Wapda, should not his province also halt making payments to Wapda,” he added.
Federal Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, in a written reply to the question by PML-N’s Chaudhry Tanvir Khan, informed the House that a colossal amount of Rs 407.2 billion was outstanding against the federal government and provinces with regards to electricity bills.
The House was informed that the government was in contact with the provinces for reconciliation of power dues and once this issue was resolved, smart metering system would be installed.
Of this amount, there is a sum of Rs 176.63 billion outstanding against the federal government and Rs 230.5 billion against the four provinces and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).
Among the ‘defaulting’ provinces, Sindh stands out leading with Rs 198.5 billion outstanding against it, followed by AJK with Rs 156.56 billion, Rs 18.55 billion against Balochistan and Rs 9.45 billion against Punjab.
The minister said that a number of government departments, both at federal and provincial level, had outstanding electricity dues and that respective DISCOs had been tasked to reconcile the figures with the respective provincial government departments and agencies.
Senators criticised the Ministry of Water and Power for not taking action against the defaulting federal and provincial governments despite having thrashed out the Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) on this count. Senator Usman Kakar of PKMAP asked the minister to disconnect power supply of the ‘civil secretariat’, offices of federal cabinet members, chief ministers and governors and others, if power tariff payments were outstanding against them. He asked why the ministry wanted to target only civic departments like Wasa.
To this, the minister said that recoveries worth billions of rupees were made for the first time by halting power supply to the Supreme Court, ministries and even CDA.
He noted that the Sindh High Court had barred them from disconnecting power supply to civic institutions.
About the outstanding electricity dues, Abid Sher conceded that his ministry was not being supported to take action against defaulters while praising Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab for making regular payments.
The minister pointed out that there would be agitation outside and inside the Parliament, if power supply to tube-wells in Balochistan and Sindh was disconnected, as massive amounts were outstanding in this connection.
He noted that transformers were recovered by digging earth in Sukkur. He added Wapda employees were not given protection by the police while taking action against those behind power pilferage. The minister went on to claim that there were also no-go areas.
About the exercise of reconciliation of power dues with provinces, he said it was quite useful, as Sindh province had benefited by Rs 4 billion.
The minister also told the House that some cases of default had been referred to the National Accountability Bureau.
Senator Nauman Wazir of PTI wondered why the ministry was not initiating action against the defaulting government departments.
With regards to a housing scheme Senator Muhammad Azam Musakhail of PkMAP and PTI’s Muhammad Azam Swati alleged that amounts to the tune of Rs 1.5 billion of poor people had been swindled vis-à-vis Bhara Kahu housing scheme, phase-VI.
Senator Ahmad Hassan of PPP, who was conducting the question hour, referred the matter to the concerned standing committee of the Senate and asked the interested senators to be present in its proceedings.
Swati also claimed that the authorities should also look into the fact that the land was purchased from a person, whose brother was a member of the executive committee of the Federal Government Employees Housing Foundation and the contract for the infrastructure development work was also awarded to them.
He pointed out that the Minister for Housing and Works Akram Khan Durrani had replied in writing in the affirmative to this part of the question asked by Senator Azam Musakhail.
The committee members are: GM Sikandar, Secretary Ministry of Housing and Works, Muhammad Zafeer Abbasi, additional secretary of Ministry of Interior, Ali Akbar Sheikh, director general Pak PWD, Mehmood Akhtar, financial advisor (Works), Fakhar Zaman, joint secretary of the Ministry of Housing and Works, Ali Abid, joint secretary (Cabinet), Cabinet Division, Syed Tanveer Hussain Bukhari Member Planning, CDA, Muzaffar Hussain Manjai, joint engineering advisor of Ministry of Housing and Works and Muhammad Zaheer Khan, DS (Admin) of the ministry. -Business Recorder