LAHORE - The Punjab government is still proceeding aggressively to privatize Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power Ltd (QASPL) despite the institution being under investigation by Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for alleged embezzlement of billions of rupees.

On advice of the provincial law department to go ahead with the privatization process while the investigations are still underway, Punjab Privatization Board (PPB) in an email to interested parties last week asked them to submit their Earnest Money (along with application form, copies of Competition Commission of Pakistan and other approvals required by bidders for the transaction and other documents) by 9th April 2018, (i.e., 7 business days prior to Bid Date, which is Thursday, 19th April 2018), whereas the company is making headlines for all the wrong reasons currently, shaking the investors' confidence.

"Provincial law ministry works under the CM/Chief Secretary and not capable of giving a legal opinion which should be sought from a legal expert or adviser on the privatisation issues," said a source privy to privatization matters adding that the Punjab government seems hell bent upon privatizing QASPL despite all the happenings around it just to add another feather in its cap.

He said it is already hard to persuade investors to invest in Pakistan and the urgency in such a delicate matter where the company is under inquiry for embezzlement of billions of rupees and other irregularities must have shaken the investors' confidence.

The source said that in absence of clarity on the investigations, the privatization process may yield much less money than the company's actual market price which will be detrimental to privatization and undo all the good work the government has put in to improve energy mix and attract investors in solar energy sector.

It merits a mention that Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power (Pvt) Limited is a public-sector for-profit company established by the Government of the Punjab as the first ever utility scale solar power plant in the country in 2013 which commenced commercial operation in 2015.

PPB approved the privatization of 100 MW portion of QASPL owned by Punjab government in July 2017 and initiated the bidding process, however, AGP has found various illegalities in the commencement and operation of the company and its various processes which were presented in the report of audit conducted for the period 2013-2017, raising questions on viability of privatizing the entity in current situation.

Moreover, NAB also wrote letter to QASPL CEO on 16 January 2018 for provision of information to conduct the inquiry into alleged embezzlement of billions of rupees in awarding various contracts.