ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has constituted a one-man commission to investigate high-level corruption and government negligence vis-à-vis Rental Power Projects (RPPs), and directed it to submit a report within four weeks.
A division bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry nominated Justice (retd) Rehmat Hussain Jaffri as head of the commission during a hearing of the suo motu case on Wednesday.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader, Khawaja Asif contended that RPPs could have produced cheaper electricity than Independent Power Producers had the projects been completed on time. The chief justice said the court would refer to an expert for his opinion and the cases will be referred to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Asif requested that the cases be transferred to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) since NAB is fighting legal battles.
“We don’t know where to refer the cases. There is no federal ombudsman, the Federal Investigation Agency does not deliver,” the chief justice remarked. He said he was not sure if the court could refer cases to the PAC. “All inquiries referred by the court are still pending.”
Asif said the Nandipur and Chichokimalian power projects were to produce 975 megawatts of electricity. “A Chinese company was paid Rs6 billion as mobilisation advance. Machinery for the Nandipur project is rusting since 2010, whereas it is yet to be imported for the second plant,” he added. He said the loss incurred from both projects must be ascertained. “Non-completion of projects indicates the government’s negligence.”
Housing Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat held the ministry of water and power responsible for the delay in the projects’ completion. He contended that the ministry presented fudged figures to the cabinet which resulted in chaos. He said the Asian Development Bank had highlighted the discrepancies in its report. “The projects were deliberately delayed for commission.” When the ministry’s counsel objected to his presence in the court, he said, “I know these lawyers who are teaching me a lesson in morality; they are getting hefty fees for hiding corruption in these projects.”
Finally, the chief justice intervened and asked them to calm down. At Hayat’s request, the chief justice adjourned the case till Thursday (today).
Of the 19 rental power projects (RPPs) that the government has committed to, only one has come online as scheduled, adding only 62 megawatts of electricity to the national grid compared to the planned 2,700MW, according to a report by the Auditor-General of Pakistan released earlier this year.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 27th, 2011.