ISLAMABAD - Pakistan People’s Party-Parliamentarians (PPPP) has reiterated its call for making public details of payments of Rs 480 billion made to settle the circular debt, saying that information merely about the amount paid to each power producer was meaningless.

Information is meaningless unless it is also accompanied with critical information about the oil supplied, the power produced and the capacity utilised by each power producer.

Following public criticism the Finance Ministry announced on July 23 that “details of payments of Rs 480 billion to settle the circular debt of Rs 503 billion are now available on the official site of the ministry”.

“The figures of payments made to each producer do not allay suspicion that billions of rupees have been paid to power producers against electricity that was never produced and to oil suppliers against shipments that were never made,” said Senator Farhatullah Babar in a statement issued from the Party’s media office on Saturday.

Demanding that all facts be laid bare, he said doubts linger because payments have been made to the private power producers and other entities in the energy sector without carrying out third party pre-audit by independent technical and professional accounting bodies.

The reports of over Rs 50 billion unjustified overpayments together with the reports of internal differences of opinion within the Finance Ministry are disturbing that call for a thorough probe, he said.

He also referred to the claim that the PEPCO provided reconciled accounts to the water and power ministry, which then forwarded it to the finance ministry apparently to allay suspicions of any underhand deal.

He said that even if this procedure had been adopted it was a faulty procedure without carrying out independent financial and technical audit.

Allowing the private producers of electricity and the power purchaser to sit together behind closed doors and decide among them an issue for which the price is ultimately paid by the general public looks like ‘muk-muka’. An ordinary citizen should not be blamed if he sees in it an underhand deal between vested interests at public expense, he said.

He said that according to media reports, the Asian Development Bank insisted and succeeded in making the audit of payments to power producers as part of the recent agreement with the IMF. If these reports are correct, it is all the more necessary that circular debt payments are subjected to a comprehensive third party audit by professional financial and technical auditors, he said.

He said that the 18th Amendment had specifically inserted Article 19-A in the Constitution that states that every citizen shall have the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance. Complete information pertaining to the payments made to private power producers is a matter of great public importance and must be made public. Doubts will linger as long as there is secrecy surrounding it, he said.

Farhatullah Babar said that reports about the banks keeping open on the last Saturday of June despite weekly holiday in order to make the payments before the close of the last financial year on June 30 also raised questions.

He said that some power producers were also the unofficial advisors on energy who were interested only in the payment of unpaid bills instead of structural reforms.

The government has not been able to address critical issues involving the gap between the cost power generation and sale, losses due to theft and in transmission and distribution as is evident from its inability to evolve consensus in the meeting of the Council of Common Interest (CCI) on Tuesday.

As a result the circular debt will re-emerge to haunt the nation of 180 million people even as a few would have made hay as the sun shone brightly over their heads, he said.