Kh Asif obtains ‘special’ powers thanks to cabinet division

  • Implementation on future tariff determinations by NEPRA would be linked to his approval

The cabinet division has secretly granted ‘special’ powers to the Water and Power Minister Khawaja Asif, under which implementation on future tariff determinations by National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) would be linked to the approval of the minister.

A copy of the official memorandum, available with Pakistan Today, disclosed that the cabinet division has forwarded a secret memorandum dated March 31, 2017, to the Ministry of Water and Power regarding the authorisation of the minister for the issuance of notifications of future determinations by NEPRA.

According to the memorandum, powers of implementation over NEPRA’s approved tariff pertaining to coal, hydel, wind, gas, solar, WAPDA, NTDC, K-Electric and power distributing companies (DISCOs) have been given to Khawaja Asif (power minister). Furthermore, water and power ministry will issue gazette notification after getting an approval from for water and power minister over NEPRA’s determination.

Similarly, there will be no legal status to the NEPRA’s approved tariff if the minister does not sign the summary of gazette notification. “An implementation report may be furnished to the cabinet division within seven days of receipt of the decision,” said cabinet division’s memorandum.

Sources in power sector said that the government was all set to control power sector regulatory authority (NEPRA) and that’s why the cabinet division has given federal cabinet’s power to a federal minister. They said NEPRA will now send its decision regarding approved tariff of DISCOs to the ministry of water and power, and the ministry will issue gazette notification for implementation of NEPRA’s decision.

Earlier, the Supreme Court (SC), in a decision regarding powers of federal government in the light of 18th amendment, declared that neither the prime minister nor any other minister has the powers of federal government’s approval as per law. It is the federal cabinet which has such powers of approval.

The sources also said that powers of the federal cabinet have secretly given to the minister for water and power only to control NEPRA. They said prime minister, water and power minister, and former water and power secretary Younus Dhaga was annoyed with NEPRA over its previous year’s decision to reduce the tariff of the DISCOs by Rs180 billion and no approval over the cost increase of Nandipur power plant from Rs43 billion to Rs58 billion. They said federal cabinet’s decision to bring the NEPRA under the administrative control of power ministry was taken on the demand of Kh Asif. However, high courts have restored the sovereignty and independence of the regulatory authority (NEPRA) through their decisions in this regard.

Sources were of the opinion that Khawaja Asif would leave no stone unturned in order to get an increase in the cost of Nandipur power plant approved; also, NEPRA approval to pass on Rs20 billion to power consumers. Similarly, water and power minister will try hard to resolve the matter of the tariff of DISCOs. “If NEPRA does not withdraw its decision, the circular debt will witness new heights with an increase of Rs110 billion,” sources said.