ISLAMABAD: The government’s plan to absorb 1,700 employees of power generation companies (Gencos) in distribution companies (Discos) has hit a “snag” as the employees have obtained a stayorder from a high court.
This was revealed by the Additional Secretary Managing Director defunct Pepco, Musaddiq Ahmed Khan Tahirkheli, at a meeting of Senate Standing Committee on Power, presided over by Senator SaifUllah Abro.
During a discussion on overstaffing in worst performing power sector companies, especially Gencos, few of which have already been de-licenced by Nepra as per government’s decision, Senator Saifullah Niazi asserted that in private sector, surplus employees are fired immediately in case companies are in loss. Power Division’s Additional Secretary, who is overseeing the affairs of Discos as Managing Director Pepco, cited the example of Gencos’ employees, who have obtained stayorder from Sindh High Court (SHC) against their proposed adjustment in Discos.
He said there is a lot of difference in private and public sector companies, saying that the government employees cannot be fired as they have protection of jobs; in addition, they are members of trade unions and get stayorders.
He explained that when the government decided to close down certain power plants/units of Gencos and on the proposal of Power Division Cabinet allowed the absorption of around 1,700 employees in Discos with lists finalized and circulated, the employees obtained stayorder from the SHC.
The committee was informed that employees were hired for public sector power plants of 2200MW but now the capacity of plants has been reduced to 780MW.
The Chairman Standing Committee expressed his displeasure at the management of Gencos for not properly overseeing the plants due to which their performance has worsened. He also expressed anger at their failure to respond to some of the questions.
The CEO of Genco Holding Company Limited (GHCL) and CEOs of Jamshoro Power Company Limited (Genco-1), Central Power Generation Company (Genco-II), and Northern Power Generation Company (Genco-III) gave a briefing to the committee on improvement of power production of their respective plants during the last five years. They also shared reasons for closure of public sector power plants, including de-licencing of some units.
He said the purpose of constituting Board of Directors (BoDs) is that the companies’ performance improves but in power sector the ground reality is totally contrary to this objective.
During the course of proceedings, on a number of occasions, unseenly arguments were witnessed between the Chairman of Standing Committee and Secretary Power Division, Ali Raza Bhutta, who is widely known as a “bold officer”.
A tense situation emerged at the start of the meeting when the Chairman expressed his annoyance at non-provision of briefs and other relevant documents to the committee members.
The Chairman stated that Power Division’s officials do not cooperate with the Secretary of Standing Committee for timely provision of record. Responding to this, the Secretary Power Division said he would take action against the staff of Power Division if Secretary Committee sends a complaint in writing.
The Chairman Standing Committee also expressed annoyance at the absence of Minister for Energy, Hammad Azhar who, according to Secretary Power, was at a meeting with the Prime Minister.
The Secretary Power also sought permission to leave the meeting for a meeting with the Prime Minister, but the Chairman Standing Committee did not allow his request, saying that since the minister is not present, Secretary must remain to witness the proceedings.
The committee members pointed out that the Standing Committee meeting was postponed for a day just to ensure that the minister will attend it but again he did not come.
Chairman Standing Committee urged the Power Division to direct Sepco and Hesco to recover bills from provincial government departments; and contended that the officials of both the Discos are afraid of Sindh police and do not carry out raids to check theft and recover bills but have no compunction in disrespecting the common man for a bill of Rs 10,000. At this, Secretary Power Division stated jokingly that he too is afraid of police.
CEO, Hesco also presented an inquiry report against appointment of Hina Talpur as CFO Hesco and in extension in the contract period. However, he added that a final decision will be taken by the Board of Directors.
According to an official statement, while being briefed about the aims and objectives of establishment of Genco GHCL along with details of achieved targets the committee was informed that the main reason for the establishment of these companies was to enhance capital formation for Power Sector development out of the budget of Government of Pakistan.
This would improve the efficiency of the Power sector through competition, accountability, managerial autonomy and profit incentives and would rationalize prices and social subsidies. This led to business transfer agreements with four Gencos at that time (Genco 1, 2, 3 & 4). Currently, the Pakistan power sector boasts of four Gencos. The committee discussed each Genco’s performance in detail. Observing trends, the committee opined that human resource exceeded the need of each Genco. Except for Genco 1 the committee showed reservations regarding the performance of three Gencos. The committee recommended a cut down in this area and said that doing so would lighten the burden on the national exchequer, which is imperative for growth. Details of capacity utilization were sought.
Discussing the Lakhra Power Plant, the Committee enquired about the recommendations made by the sub-committee and directed the ministry to submit its implementation report. The committee enquired whether or not those recommendations were submitted to the cabinet prior to the delicencing of the power plant. The Chairman Committee, Senator Saifullah Abro, was of the view that aims and objectives for the creation of Gencos were not fulfilled. He added that every measure must be taken to save the national assets. He said that this will ensure the revival of enterprises essential for the prosperity of Pakistan.
Reviewing the circular debt issue, the Committee directed the ministry to submit a complete breakup of where and how much was spent. It also sought details of contributing factors.
The meeting was attended by Senator Fida Muhammad, Senator Saifullah Sarwar Khan Niazi, Senator Zeeshan Khanzada, Senator Prince Ahmed Umer Ahmedzai, Senator Sana Jamali, Senator Haji Hidayatullah Khan and senior officers from the Power Division, along with all concerned.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021