PAC wants capital’s street lights metered

IESCO chief engineer says bills are generated as per set formula

Razya Khan July 18, 2019
Representational image. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary accountability subcommittee has called for installing power metres on street lights in the federal capital in a bid to check consumption and to prevent overbilling. The committee also decided to refer the matter of leasing land for a large departmental store in the city to the apex accountability body for a probe.

This was decided in a meeting of a sub-committee of the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which met at the Parliament House on Wednesday with Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) MNA Noor Alam Khan in the chair.

Discussing the of inflated bills power bills, audit officials said that since 2006, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) has paid around Rs7 billion to the Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO) for power used by hundreds of street lights in the city.

Moreover, they said that the CDA had already paid the power utility to install metres for street lights but they have yet to be installed.

Officials said that till date, IESCO bills the civic agency as much as it wants. If the CDA objects to the value of their power bill or calls for an investigation, their power is cut.

At this, the subcommittee’s convener turned to the IESCO deputy director present in the meeting and inquired about the whereabouts of the utility’s chief. The IESCO official replied that the chief had undergone a dental procedure a day before the meeting and was thus unable to speak.

Noor directed to summon the chief engineer immediately. When the chief engineer arrived a short while later, the convener asked that what kinds of bills were the utility sending CDA, adding that the parliament’s power had been cut because of him.

The chief engineer replied that the bills were sent according to a certain set formula. Moreover, he said that everything was on the record.

Asked about the inflated bills, he said that IESCO would have not have sent those bills if metres were installed. The convener said that metres should be installed and it should be checked that how many units were being consumed by the street lights.

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Moreover, he directed that if it is found that CDA was sent inflated bills, then the civic agency should be reimbursed for such bills sent over the past last 10 months.

The committee also discussed power outages at Parliament House. The convener said that there was no power during the PAC meeting which was held on Tuesday.

Initially, Noor said that the committee was told that it was IESCO’s fault. Later, a civil engineer, rather than an electrical engineer, was sent to fix the fault. The committee’s convener said that whoever was responsible will have to pay for all the expenses.

Sector I-11 land

During the meeting, audit officials pointed out that land in Sector I-11 had been awarded to a large departmental store against rules and regulations. The land, they said, had been given at a rate of Rs10,000 per square foot (sq.ft), unlike in other sectors where the rates were Rs250,000 per sq.ft This way, a loss of Rs9 billion was caused to the exchequer.

Noor decided to hand over the matter to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for inquiry.

Further, the convener said that the committee should be informed that how many officials were deployed on a seat for more than three years. Interior Secretary Azam Salman Khan said that violators will face action.

On the issue of the Islamabad Chief Commissioner Amer Ali Ahmed holding the additional charge of CDA chief, PTI Senator Shibli Faraz asked whether he had enough time to fulfil responsibilities of two positions.

Ahmed replied that the government had the authority to appoint him anywhere they liked.

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At this, the committee’s convener said that they will not let allow anyone, coming through unfair means, to helm the civic agency.

Committee member Shahida Akhtar Ali pointed out that a hotel had been established in the Pak-China Friendship Centre but it was not yet operative.

The CDA chairman replied in the affirmative, dilating that there was a furnished, 50-60 room hotel in the centre and that it was under use. He added that the hotel was a gift from China and thus they could not interfere in it.

Noor said committee members will visit the hotel to review it and directed to launch an inquiry into the matter and present a report about it.

Ahmed said that they had filled the landfill in Sector I-12 and that they will plant trees there too.

The convener asked who was responsible if plastic bags are found in the federal capital after the August 14 deadline. The interior secretary replied that the related departments will impose fines on all such violators.

On the development of the federal capital, Noor stated that some sectors of the federal capital have been under construction since 1982. By comparison, he said that private housing societies have been built far quicker than projects of the civic authority.

At this, the CDA chairman said that they have started work on four sectors. He disclosed that CDA had approved construction in Sector I-11 many years ago and now it was conducting an anti-encroachment operation there. He confessed that the CDA had shown lethargy on some projects even though the entire area of the federal capital fell under its authority.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2019.


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