PAC peeved at NEPRA, OGRA chiefs’ salaries | The Express Tribune


ISLAMABAD:

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of parliament on Wednesday sought details of the agreements reached with all the independent power producers (IPPs).

PAC Chairman Noor Alam Khan expressed his apprehension that the rising prices of electricity might result in the collapse of the country.

He added that more use of electricity across the world resulted in its prices becoming cheaper but in Pakistan, they were rising.

Noor further noted that IPPs were paid from people’s taxes even in case they did not produce electricity in the name of capacity payment.

“Now there is talk of increasing the price of electricity by Rs7 per unit.”

Senator Saleem Mandviwala, Mushahid Hussain Syed, Wajiha Qamar and Shahida Akhtar participated in a PAC meeting chaired by Noor.

Cabinet Secretary Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera as well as the heads of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) and Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) also attended the meeting.

Noor maintained that it had been learnt some subsidiaries did not want to be audited. “Everyone will be audited,” he emphasised.

He further noted that it had been learnt that Nepra and Ogra did not cooperate with the audit authorities.

The cabinet secretary said the regulatory authorities wanted to approach the court but were stopped from doing so.

The PAC chief replied that why government institutions could not be audited.

“Wherever Pakistani money is invested, it will be audited.”

The cabinet secretary told the committee that the views of the Auditor General Office and PAC would be taken to the relevant forum and sought 15-20 days for this purpose.

PAC member Sheikh Rohail Asghar inquired as to what percentage of electricity is being stolen in the country at present.

Read Govt to scrap tax on power subsidy

The Nepra chairman replied distribution companies had a concession of 13% power line losses. However, in practice, the power losses were found to be at 17%, he added.

He said that currently most of the electricity was being stolen from the system of the Quetta Electric Supply Company (Qesco) — 65%. To a query, the Nepra chairman said the country had the capacity to generate 41,000 megawatts of electricity.

On the PAC’s query as to why there were power outages then, the Nepra chief cited the shortage of fuel for the power plants.

During the meeting, Noor told the Nepra chairman that it seemed as if your electricity was free of cost. The Nepra chief replied that he had received a bill of Rs68,000. The PAC chief then asked him how much his salary was, to which the Nepra chairman replied that it was around Rs0.7 million per month.

The PAC chief said his salary was 0.15 million per month. “Your salary is very high,” he added. The Ogra chairman said that he received a salary of Rs1.1 million per month.

He added that he used to draw his salary in Euros where he came from – much higher than what he was receiving in rupees.

During the meeting, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) chairman said 345 cases of various mobile and IT companies against the telecom watchdog were pending in courts.

He added that the attorney general for Pakistan had been repeatedly asked to play a role in speedy decision of the cases.

The PTA chief further said the names of many defaulters had been put on the Exit Control List (ECL).

Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed inquired as to how much money had been spent on the 345 cases.

PAC member Shahida Akhtar Ali said it would be better to call the AGP before the committee.

The PAC chief asked the PTA chairman about his department’s progress against fake accounts on social media – especially those spreading anti-Pakistan propaganda.

The PTA chairman replied that his department had to report fake accounts on social media to the platforms they were operating on.

He added that based on the content being shared by such accounts they were reported to the social media platforms.

The PTA chief said Twitter took a little more time on fake accounts. However, Facebook was quick to act. He further told the meeting that the PTA sent 12,000 to 13,000 reports every month to various platforms, 70% of which were removed.

He added that there were 115 million internet users in the country, of which 113 million used it on their cell phones. He further said the PTA was yet to receive policy directives on 5G.

Moving on to other issues, the Ogra chairman said the subsidy for petrol was still Rs9-10 per litre and high speed diesel was being sold at a subsidy of Rs25-26.

The PAC chairman replied that the economy as well as the livelihoods of the poor were dependent on diesel.

He added that the price of high-octane could be raised as much as desired so that those with four-wheel drives could endure the same difficulties being faced by the poor.

Senator Mandviwala suggested that apart from the state-run PSO, private oil companies should also be allowed to sell fuel at market rates.



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