Rental power projects case: CJ tells off govt for failure to curb corruption

Govt counsel tries to defend project while admitting anomalies.

Express November 15, 2011

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry reprimanded the government on Monday for its failure to curb corruption with special reference to rental power projects in the face of crippling shortages.

“Good governance cannot be established by political concessions and illegal appointments,” the chief justice remarked, presiding over a division bench.

Tariq Rahim, who is representing the water and power ministry, informed the court that there was no violation of Pepra rules in RPPs. “The project itself was not bad but it was defamed. If the court finds any discrepancies in the awarding of contracts, they can be removed.” The counsel submitted that companies are being heavily fined for not generating electricity on schedule.

But, the CJP dismissed this as a solution and questioned why cases against those responsible for power outages were not forwarded to the National Accountability Bureau. Rahim said load shedding was a result of non-payment of electricity bills and little chance of recovery. “Outstanding dues amount to Rs70 billion of which Balochistan owes Rs65 billion.” The CJ said that recoveries could be made only if the government’s writ was established, which was difficult in the absence of good governance.

Justice Khilji Arif Hussain said that electricity theft is around 32% and the entire burden is shifted to consumers. “There was no need for rental power projects if the potential of independent power producers (IPPs) had been fully exploited. Load shedding ended due to payment to IPPs.”

The CJ had a barrage of questions for the counsel. He asked him who had approved RPPs. “How come Karkey was paid 14% mobilisation advance without the cabinet’s approval and why was a company allowed to operate when it failed to produce electricity on time?”

Rahim said Karkey was wrongly linked with the prime minister’s relatives. “Two contracts for RPPs were cancelled and the mobilisation advance retrieved. These projects did not exist on the ground and yet the mobilisation advance was approved.” Mobilisation advance was retrieved from Reshma Rental Plant along with a fine and markup, he added. “The delay in RPPs was not criminal negligence but mere negligence.” Since rental machinery has already been imported, it can be used after imposition of fines, he suggested.

Criminal cases should be registered against ‘negligent’ officials, the CJ said. The counsel suggested constituting a commission to investigate negligence and fix responsibility. “We will not constitute a commission, but announce the verdict now,” the CJ said.

The CJ insisted that the counsel reveal the identities of individuals who had vested interests in the RPPs. The bench appointed Anwar Kamal as amicus curiae and asked the parties to provide all records to him. The court adjourned the case till Tuesday (today).

Published in The Express Tribune, November 15th,  2011.


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