The report on the power sector recently made public has failed to garner the media attention it merits. The reasons could be many. The report is 296 pages of technical (often boring) details, findings and recommendations. The report has come at a time when the coronavirus is spreading its wings across the country.
And maybe, the report does not get many anchors and politicians excited, as it is difficult to find political mafias, or power barons, running and influencing the show. All misdoings, big or small, being inquired is good, but surely, irregularities spanning multiple dozen times over that of the sugar inquiry report – do merit more attention.
The contents of the report will be periodically analyzed and commented on in this space, for its sheer volume and technicalities. But what should not go unsaid is the fact, as written by the committee members in the report, is government’s stepmother behavior towards the committee’s working.
What explains a failure to secure a funding of merely Rs22 million, for a report which tasked the committee with terms of reference of such importance and effort, that even 22 million in dollars would not feel out of place. “We were unable to procure a budget allocation because of which we were limited in obtaining technical and legal support,” reads an excerpt from the report.
The notification of appointment of the committee clearly mandates the committee to also “engage or seek…assistance from technical testing firms, investment banker, A-rated audit firms, legal advisor or any other…as deemed necessary”.
It is unthinkable to engage any of these services free of cost, an example of which gets a mention in the report. The committee had negotiated the terms with an international power consulting firm to compare data with other countries. This could not happen because the budget was not there. It surely is late, but those having denied such a petty amount, for such a herculean task, need to be asked questions. Vested interests in the power corridors are often a stone’s throw away.
With such handicaps, having completed a recommendatory report of such magnitude, is commendable. This is easily the most comprehensive piece on the power sector issues to have come out in at least last 15 years. It could be safely said, it is the most comprehensive ever.
While the report does recommend forensic audit, as one of its recommendations, it is best advised for the government to opt for the negotiation route. Unless of course it is ready to dole out more than Rs22 million to those conducting the forensic.