Increase font size Decrease font size Reset font size

Fata power dispute resolution body is all about a family

By Zulfiqar Ali 2015-11-27
PESHAWAR: The Electricity Bills Monitoring and Reconciliation Cell (EBMRC) created at the Civil Secretariat Fata for resolving disputes with the power distribution companies looks like a family business.

Mohammad Sulaiman Khattak, project director of the cell, is also serving as the deputy secretary at the secretariat`s finance department, while cousin Mohammad Faheem Khattak is his assistant, son-in-law Mohammad Hanif Khattak worl(s as assistant/accountant and brother Muzafar Khattak occupies the driver`s post in the cell, according to official documents.

He confirmed that Faheem, who works as assistant in the cell, belonged to his area, but insisted he was not a relative. Three of the five vehicles are at the disposal of project director and his family members.

Sulaiman has been working as the project director since 2011.Engineer Shaukatullah, a retired employee of Wapda, who was deputy project director, the only technical person in the cell, was relieved of his job around nine months ago.

His post has been lying vacant and according to the deputy secretary, the cell did not need his replacement as the existing staff could do the job.

The EBMRC was established in 2010 to resolve billing disputes related to offices of line departments, directorates and political administrations with the Tribal Electric Supply Company (Tesco) and Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco) through reconciliation and monitoring to save money for the secretariat.

The total cost of the project shown in the Fata annual development programme for 2010-11 was Rs22.323 million. Of the amount, Rs16.155 million was allocated for employees` related expensesincluding salaries andhonorarium and Rs6.168 million operating expenditures.

The cell has the responsibility to maintain complete record of all government connections, verify government connections, remove illegal connections from billing data of Tesco/ Pesco, monthly check/review billing of government connections, adjust excess/wrong billing from the power distribution companies` computer system, codify government connections, ensure monthly payment of govern-ment authorised connections to avoid payment of surcharge etc and issues related to private connections.

When approached, Sulaiman Khattak said few people in the secretariat were behind `this malicious campaign`.

`These people are on a campaign of character assassination against me, he said. He said senior officers of the secretariat had given him the additional charge of the cell and that was not his personal decision.

The official documents show the federal government had paid more than Rs130 billion to Wapda in lieu of electricity bills in Fata since 2010. The federal government paid dues to Wapda at the source deduction.

Officials said Wapda had so far been paid Rs6 billion on account of domestic consumers during the current financial year.

Initially the government made payment from Fata share under the KerryLugar Berman bill, which was titled `Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009 as domestic consumers in tribal area do not pay for consuming electricity.

About performance of the EBMRC, deputy secretary claimed that roughly Rs45 to 50 million had been saved through monitoring and reconciliation of electricity bills since creation of the cell. `The cell regularly negotiates with the distribution companies whenever issues about excessive billings surfaced in Fata and the province,` he said.

The only success story of the cell which narrated by the deputy secretary is that civil secretariat had a dispute with the Pesco over excessive billing from internally displaced persons of Fata at Jalozai Camp in Nowshera district.

He said the Pesco had claimed that electricity was supplied to the camp from 15 transformers and that issue was resolved through reconciliation and thus, saving Rs400,000 a month.

Officials at the Tesco said bureaucracy at the civil secretariat might be `joking` when they talk about the reconciliation of billing in Fata and argued that the current arrears against government departments and offices of the political agents totaled Rs1.93 billion. `Reconciliation process starts when consumers pay bill. When they don`t pay bills and allow the company to install meters then there is no need of reconciliation,` said an official at the Tesco.

He said the company had been directly negotiating with the relevant political authorities and directorates in Fata for recovery of outstanding dues and resolved disputes related to the billings.

He said Tesco had no contact or correspondence with the cell regarding billing since Shaukatullah had abandoned the post.