LAHORE - Lesco CEO Arshad Rafique was removed from office and arrested on Monday over charges of corruption and abuse of power.
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) also arrested Mehboob Ali, Lesco GM (Operations), over same charges and facilitating his boss in malpractices and illegal decision making.
The names of Lesco Chief Engineer Mehbool Alam Bhatti and GM Technical Abdul Rehman are being considered as favourite for company’s Chief Executive Officer slot.
Interestingly, Arshad Rafique’s predecessor, the former Lesco chief Muhammad Saleem had also been removed from the post in July 2013 over allegations of corruption and supplying electricity to industry without following the load management plan. Mr Rafique, the then general manager (Planning), took the charge as Lesco CEO nearly one year before.
It has been learnt that both officials had been arrested on special direction of new secretary of water and power ministry Nargis Sethi. It is likely that NAB would conduct inquiry against both the Lesco officials.
The company sources told this scribe that FIA arrested Arshad Rafique over the allegation of conducting unscheduled long hours load shedding at different domestic and commercial feeders to facilitate the industry. The decision to supply electricity mainly to textile industry at cost of heavy shutdown in domestic limits was based on financial corruption instead of administrative decision, sources added.
The main allegation behind their arrest was that the Lesco conducted 8 to 10-hour consecutive shutdown in DHA, Harbancepura and nearby residential colonies on May 27 by diverting the total supply to textile industry. The company official then had stated the technical issues as the reason behind the consecutive shutdown. Sources said that the FIA started investigation into the matter and it was learnt that the load shedding schedule was not followed on May 27.
The former chief is also charged with trading in substandard transformers and awarding dozens of industrial and commercial connections illegally.
An official in power ministry said that FIA took abrupt action against Lesco chief after the notice taken by PM Nawaz Sharif over the issue of long hours power cuts in the provincial capital. The official added that ministry was also worried over the continuing theft and over-billing by the power distribution companies and especially by the Lesco which is mainly because of the corruption of officials.
Arshad Rafique had been asked for citing reasons behind such bad-governance at most efficient power distribution company. More action was expected against the official of power sector in coming days, he said.
It is worth-mentioning that the ministry had warned Mr Rafiq twice to either “improve situation at the company, or the ministry would take direct action”.
The ministry had pointed out total collapse of governance in the Lesco. The company CEO had been warned over falling recoveries, increasing line losses, excessive and wrong billing at Lesco.
Also last week, an arrest warrant was issued against Rafique for his constant absence in a contempt of court petition filed by a consultant of the company.
Meanwhile, the Lesco staff has cut power supply to FIA after the arrest of its boss. The electricity supply was restored to the agency headquarters after seven hours. An official of the Lesco said that the FIA’s supply was disconnected over non-payment issue.
Staff Reporter from Islamabad adds: Prime Minister's Adviser on Water and Power, Dr. Mussadiq Malik, on Monday said that large scale irregularities have been found in Discos and due to increase in tariff, Rs 200 billion additional revenue has been collected last year.
While addressing a press conference, the Adviser said that on the directions of Prime Minister, proceedings have been started against top officials of LESCO.
"About 250 megawatt electricity was illegally provided to industry, on sound proofs of irregularities, we have handed over LESCO Chief Operating Officer, Arshad, and Chief Operation Officer to FIA for the interrogation," he said
He said Chief Operating Officer Karachi Electric has also been directed to register FIR against corrupt officers of his department.
The Adviser said that recoveries of over 106 billion rupees outstanding for the last six years would also start from KESCO, soon.
Malik said that tariff increase last year had resulted in 200 billion rupees additional income and power theft reduced due to tariff increase.
He hoped that after decrease in power theft electricity prices would also decrease.