Friday, January 25, 2013

State Aristocracy’s Pakistan – 8: Several officials enjoy free water tankers on the house

KARACHI: While millions of households in Karachi go without clean drinking water for days despite having pipelines, those with direct connections in the water board enjoy a free home-delivery service.

Karachi Water and Sewerage Board’s (KWSB) water tankers are supplying water worth millions of rupees to houses of government functionaries, bureaucrats, parliamentarians and ministers on a daily basis. The chief minister and governor houses, several serving and retired judges and many VIPs living in the city are among those enjoying this free facility.

These revelations came during a meeting of the Sindh Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Wednesday, where audit director for local governments Muhammad Ali Shah briefed the financial watchdog about the KWSB audit for the year 2010-11.

During the whole year, tankers operating from different hydrants across the city provided water worth Rs23.9 million to the chief minister and governor houses but were not paid for the service, the auditor told the PAC members. “Both the official residences enjoy a separate budget provision for drinking water, then why was the KWSB still providing the facility free of charge?”

The meeting, presided over by PAC chairperson Jam Tamachi Unar, took strong exception to the study and asked the KWSB managing director, Misbahuddin Farid, to explain the matter.

Farid replied the practice has been going on for years but still regular bills are issued to them. “We inherited this problem. We cannot disconnect water supply to these people,” he said, claiming that judges were the biggest beneficiaries of the free water service.

“We will not accept your argument or settle this irregularity unless you improve your system,” Unar retorted, directing the KWSB chief to call on the relevant authorities to recover the amount.

The water board earns Rs5 billion but pays Rs7 billion in utility bills alone. “We are facing severe financial constraints and have no money to even pay our employees,” Farid said. The director audit said the KWSB provided residential accommodation to its employees but has failed to recover the charges of electricity. “The bills were, however, paid in the budget,” Shah pointed out.

A PAC member, MPA Shama Mithani, suggested deducting the arrears from the salaries of the officers but the KWSB chief interrupted, saying the Karachi Electric Supply Company will be asked to install separate meters.

[The Express Tribune, January 24, 2013]

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