Karachi has been facing more pain on account of lack of power generation and distribution experience of Abraaj group of Dubai saddled in place of Saudi Al-Jomiah & Kuwaiti NIG consortium, who had successfully bided for KESC in its privatization by Pakistan Government through a transparrent bidding process completed in end 2005, which transferred 71% ownership to Al- Jomiah while 26% were retained by the Government.
By Muhammad Daheem
The general public of Karachi and industrialists welcomed privatization of KESC in 2005. They hoped that complaints would be attended in a serious business like manner and old lethargic attitude of KESC would come to an end. Unfortunately this conception proved almost entirely wrong. Later on, the company was handed over to another firm Abraaj Capital, under another deal in 2008. But the situation did not change. Several complaints are made daily and only a few are attended under the security of government. The government is a silent observer and apparently follows non-interference policy. Keeping in view the problems of the consumers and workers RazaRabbani, Senator and senior politician, has demanded from the government to take over the company. According to him it was a wrong decision to hand over an essential utility to foreigners. It is also risky from security’s point of view as all the sensitive installations are under threat.Raza Rabbani has highly criticized the KESC for doing nothing to provide smooth electricity to the consumers. According to him the new KESC management has failed to restore the real image of Karachi. It has failed to provide proper services to the consumers and the government has no option but to retake control of the company. It is simply minting money by regularly raising tariff. The Senator has further criticized the management for its anti-people and anti-worker policies. He has blamed the company for sacking about 4,500 lower cadre employees and promoting contract culture. This foreign company, according to him, is blatantly violating the rules of law of the land.He blamed the company for violating the rules of downsizing, terminating and retrenchment. The Chairman of Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan has also asked NEPRA to revoke the agreement with the new management of KESC.The management team, headed by Tabish Gahuar, comprises about 41 senior managers to tackle the crisis at KESC. Unfortunately, the management personnel are drawing huge salaries while output and performance is not up to the mark. The high-ups earn millions in the KESC, while the skilled labour earn between Rs12,000 and 35,000 to live from hand to mouth. The company’s main problem seems to be the shortage of skilled management personnel.The KESC Chief Executive Officer Tabish Gahuar claimed in a press conference that appointments would be made purely on the basis of merit. Unfortunately this did not happen. A number of appointments have been made without keeping merit in view.Several senior posts have been awarded to relatives of influential persons, including politicians, bureaucrats and army officers. It is amazing that more than 650 officers have been appointed at packages ranging from Rs 150,000 to Rs 50,00,000.The company is involved miserably in nepotism, favouritism and corruption. Muttahida Qaumi Movement MNA Khushbakht Shujat’s son, Shahbaz Beg, appointed as Training Director, is drawing a salary of Rs500,000. Pir Danish Ali, son of senior provincial minister from the PPP Pir Mazharul Haq, employed as Director and Senior Advisor for Government Relations Department, is also drawing a salary of Rs500,000. Syed Nayyer Hussain, a relative of PPP MNA Sherry Rehman, appointed as Technical Group Head, is drawing Rs2.5 million per month.Abdul Gafoor, 78–year-old, a retired bank officer, is also paid Rs2.5 million per month. The KESC appointed Asir Manzoor as the group head of Human Resources, with a package worth Rs2 million per month. Manzoor’s brother-in-law Zafar Nasir Khan is drawing Rs500,000 as a general manager. Asif Hussain, brother of MQM provincial minister Aadil Siddiqi, is receiving a package of Rs700,000 per month as the KESC Production Department’s Revenue Director. Abid Hussain, brother of MQM’s parliamentary leader in the Sindh Assembly, Syed Sardar Ahmed, collects a sum of Rs500,000 from the company. He is serving as a project director in the KESC. Another enthusiastic worker of the MQM, Abrar Hussain, serving as Director of Project-2, receives a sum of Rs500,000 per month.Two former heads of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), serving as security chiefs, are drawing a lucrative salary of Rs1.5 million each. About 18 retired colonels are on a salary of Rs,500,000 each. Naveed Hussain, a close relative of PML-Q’s MNA Humayun Akhtar, serving as Group Head of Recovery, is on a salary of Rs2.9 million.Muhammad Tayyab Tareen, a resident of ‘Multan’, took charge of Group Chief Financial Officer, on political basis, at KESC on 2nd November 2009. Tareen plays pivotal role in the company and controls almost all financial activities within the organization such as financial planning, budgeting, insurance, payroll, taxation and treasury activities and financial reporting.
The KESC is one of the major factors responsible for power crisis in Karachi. The other factors are corrupt governments and selfish rulers who did not utilize the enormous resources of water, coal, wind plants, uranium and gas in Pakistan to produce electricity. Several advanced countries use all these resources for the welfare of their people. Pakistan should have big projects to produce electricity.Coal, for example, can be used to produce electricity. Pakistan has one of the largest coal reserves in the world. The theft of electricity and nonpayment of dues are the other major factors for the power crisis in Karachi. It may be mentioned here that Karachi is suffering from 12-hour load shedding in residential areas and 8-hour load shedding in industrial areas approximately.The company’s viewpoint is that, in the past, KESC hired staff in excess of its operational requirements. The favourite of the ruling party or influential politicians were accommodated unnecessarily. The KESC has blamed the CBA union for the turmoil and fuss. According to the management the CBA union is hindering repair work and workers feel themselves unsafe in the present circumstances. Nonetheless, recently three-month dispute between KESC management and its workers has been settled amicably.Several critics are of the opinion that almost all the top managers who took charge one after the other were incompetent. A real professional approach is required to crack the hard nut. It may be amazing that 30% electricity is being used through illegal connections and the KESC has almost failed to resolve the issue and overpower the line losses. The management lacks the skill, competence, training and integrity to come over the crisis. Moreover, an independent audit of the company is necessary for finding facts and faults of the company.Frequent power failure for hours, unannounced load shedding and voltage fluctuation has provoked an uproar from the public, traders and industrialists. Industrialists find it really difficult to compete with the products from other countries in the international market because of load shedding. Naturally it means fewer exports and less foreign exchange for the country.The private monopoly companies always try to raise tariff and expand network on commercial basis. They demand special concessions from the government on the pretext of higher fuel prices and meeting emergency situations. It is another way of exploitation of the common man.The new management has done nothing particular to reduce Transmission and Distribution System losses. It did not spend sufficient money to improve distribution system, increase the capacity of grid and sub-stations. Moreover, it did not fulfil the promise to construct new power plants as mentioned in the agreement. The management has failed to reduce corruption in different fields including corrupt billing. The controversial costly and uneconomical thermal plants, fraught with corruption in its design and execution, were introduced in Pakistan in 1994. Under the NAB investigation against these companies 6 out of 21 IPPs confessed paying bribe to high-ups. The independent power producers (IPPs) are not operating full capacity because of so-called financial problems. This is one of the major factors leading to load shedding. Some opposition leaders claim that the power crisis has been created to make market for the purchase of more rental power plants. Though the plan has already doomed to failure. Even a layman knows that energy produced through this source is very expensive.The politics of ad-hocism and nepotism should be discarded.Corruption, inefficiency and mismanagement should not be tolerated and payment to the personnel should be linked to the performance. The KESC should be restructured for the welfare of the people of Karachi. Several critics are of the opinion that KESC management is responsible for the closure of factories, mass unemployment and loss of Pakistan’s export markets. The government is silent observer at this critical juncture. The privatization of the KESC seems to be against the national interest. It’s high time the KESC fate is decided in the national interest of Pakistan.