ISLAMABAD - Despite daily videoconferences, Water and Power Secretary Nargis Sethi seems helpless in front of electricity distribution chiefs who ignore all her instructions and orders to manage power crisis.

Sethi and her team were given the task to reduce loadshedding to five hours in cities and to seven hours in rural areas during Ramazan, and to ensure smooth power supply during sehar and iftaar, a goal yet to be achieved despite passing of more than half of the holy month.

It was learnt that one of the reasons for the failure of Sethi is non-cooperation of Disco chiefs who give verbal assurances to implement the orders but do nothing practically. Iesco chief Yousaf Awan is also one of those who have failed to manage electricity supply as per government announced schedule in their jurisdiction, according to sources.

After taking charge of her office in the capital couple of months back, Secretary Sethi was bombarded with the complaints against Iesco, the distribution company supplying electricity to Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Jehlum, Chakwal and Attock, with more than 2.3 million consumer database.

On these complaints Sethi suspended officials but things did not improve, as unannounced loadshedding tripping and low voltage remained a regular feature of Iesco. With the advent of Ramazan, Iesco reduced loadshedding for a couple of days but then the blackouts duration surged up again.

According to official data, Multan Electricity Supply Company (Mesco)and Lahore Electricity Supply Company (Lesco), are big distribution companies and their demand and supply gap during last week was around 1,800 megawatt, and 2,000MW respectively, on average. Iesco is relatively smaller company with an average shortfall of 300MW, which, however, in extreme demand period touches 500MW.

Despite clear differences of demand and supply gap between Iesco and other distribution companies, there is hardly any difference between the duration of blackouts in Islamabad and the jurisdictions of other supply companies.

Loadshedding as per announced official duration was hardly reported from any area of the Iesco, but there were many complaints of unannounced outages and low voltage from almost whole of Islamabad, except some Posh sectors, law enforcing agencies’ buildings or VVIP buildings and residences.

It was learnt that Iesco in fact sell electricity to industry and other influential illegally and officials mint money. The electricity of general public areas is discontinued to supply uninterrupted power to industrialists and others. The Stone Crushers Association, in October 2013, alleged that Iesco of Margalla sub division collects Rs150,000 per month for uninterrupted power supply to them.

In another scam, Iesco employee Syed Manzoor Hussain Kazmi approached Islamabad High Court and stated that Iesco had allowed a private housing society MS Bahria Town to distribute electricity within its premises which was a violation of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) Act. The petition said Bahria Town sold the electricity obtained from Iesco, to its customers but did not pay a single penny to the distribution company. It was alleged that Rs152.33 million are payable to the Iesco by the Bahria Town. The court asked the petitioner to try some other appropriate forum.

It is worth mentioning that US Embassy this year assisted in establishing a Power Distribution Control Centre (PDCC) at Iesco. According to a US Embassy press release, PDCC will enable Iesco to monitor the electrical power flow throughout the region by interpreting and displaying data from more than 1,000 meters installed throughout each of their 79 grid stations. The objective of PDCC was to improve Iesco’s ability to reduce unscheduled loadshedding. But the situation in Iesco remained unchanged. Last month more than half of Islamabad was in darkness for more than 12 hours. The public became so furious that it attacked Iesco building and its staff.

It has been alleged that the corruption is done by blue eyed officials of Iesco, and its chief Yousaf Awan receives Lion’s share and he is so much well connected that ministry of water and power’s officials defended him in a meeting of Senate Standing Committee on water and power last week. The committee members terming illegal the extension in service of Awan and some other officers asked for their immediate removal. It has also been alleged that Iesco chief is responsible for all the theft in electricity, store, purchases, and commission in tenders.

Yousaf Awan, an engineering graduate, joined Wapda in 1976. During his service he also worked in Mepco and Iesco. His career as deputy manager (operation) and deputy manager (construction) is stretched over a period of 20 years. It is alleged that during his time in service he made direct contacts with vendors and had his share in every tender. He also allegedly, provided special services to areas belonging to influential political leaders to get political support.

Awan take credit of constructing two additional grid stations at Chakri and Kallar Syedan, in 2008, but opponents say they were built to win the support of influential PML-N stalwart Chuadhry Nisar Ali Khan. It is said that it was due to this support that he secured top position in Iesco, in May last year. He was retired couple of months back after service of around 38 years. But he allegedly used his connections and managed to get his extension after retirement.

Awan did not respond to calls from this scribe and did not answer queries sent to him through text messages. However, he called Nawa-i-Waqt Resident Editor Javed Siddique and denied all charges. “Extension in service was prerogative of the board, and he never influenced board members or anyone else to get a favourable decision,” he said.

Iesco DG (Human Resource) Tariq Mehmood defended his boss’ service extension saying, “According to the previous rules, Board of Director was the authority to appoint CEO but in 2013 rules were changed. As per new rules, PM is given the authority to appoint the Iesco chief.“ Mehmood revealed that new rules took one year to reach his office and by that time the Board had ordered Awan to continue his services.

It is worth mentioning here that according to Iesco rules, the Board members are themselves handpicked by PM. According to Mehmood, up to six members are appointed by PM, whereas one each is from ministry of water and power and ministry of finance, and one is non-executive member, which is CEO itself. These board members are from a diversified background.

Chairman Ghiasuddin Ahmed is a retired bureaucrat, Director Sheikh Tariq Chief Executive Sadiq is chief executive of Sihala Flour Mills, Director Naeem Iqbal is a retired banker, another director Dr Saeeda Asad ullah Khan is an educationalist with PHD in English Literature, Syed Hyder Sarfraz Abedi is an executive in a private cellular company, Director Shahbaz Yar Khan is a lawyer and Company Secretary Naeem Aslam is former company secretary of Saif Group of Companies.

According to Securities Exchange Commission of Pakistan’s Act, appointment of Shiekh Tariq Sadiq and Haider Sarfraz Abidi in Iesco BoD is direct conflict of interest as they both are clients and getting electricity from Iesco for business purposes.