The government has decided to initiate probe into delay in implementing the multimillion-dollar Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) project for power distribution companies (DISCOs) and fix responsibility on people behind the delay.

According to sources, Pakistan has paid $2.5 million in commitment charges to the ADB because of the delay in executing the metering project.

They said that the Planning Commission had informed the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) that the Power Division never brought the issue before the Central Development Working Party (CDWP), which was a relevant forum, to address the challenges hindering work on the project.

The ADB had approved a $400 million loan for the project in November 2015. However, Pakistan has failed to implement the scheme, though several years have passed, and has paid $2.5 million in commitment charges to the ADB.

Now, Ecnec has decided to initiate an inquiry to fix responsibility and kick off a pilot project within the jurisdiction of Islamabad Electric Supply Company (Iesco), which will be extended to other distribution companies after analysing results of the pilot project.

Earlier, the issue was taken up in a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Energy to deliberate on whether to execute or shelve the project. The energy committee left the matter for the Power Division to decide as to whether it wanted to continue the project in the existing format or shelve it.

It was agreed that the Power Division would take up the scheme with the Planning Commission, which would table it before the CDWP.

The Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives briefed Ecnec in a meeting that the CDWP had reviewed the position paper of the project, submitted by the Power Division, in its meeting held on October 5, 2021 and recommended the same to Ecnec with the following observations:

The Power Division will implement the scheme in Iesco areas as a pilot project in a bid to assess all issues, ie the design, technology, scope, etc. On the basis of lessons learnt, the AMI project will be implemented in jurisdictions of other distribution companies, including Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco).

The Power Division will hire an independent consultant for the monitoring and evaluation of the project and conducting an analysis of different design options for future rollout.

Moreover, the Power Division will hold an internal assessment/ inquiry into the delay in implementation of the project and document the reasons for delay, accumulation of commitment charges and fix responsibility.

The Ministry of Planning submitted the proposals for the consideration and approval of Ecnec.

During discussion, minister for industries and production stated that the project had been delayed inordinately, adding that reasons for the delay might be investigated.

The Power Division responded that the delay was mainly because of differences of opinion among stakeholders and certain court cases.

The project had been approved after necessary due diligence, therefore, there was hardly any justification for not executing it, the division said.

It added that the Power Division was proceeding with implementation of the project in Iesco areas but it could not be executed in the jurisdiction of Lesco due to time constraints.

Planning minister stated that although the project should have started from those distribution companies where electricity theft was high, still it could be treated as a pilot scheme due to time constraints.

Planning Commission deputy chairman stated that the Power Division never approached the CDWP in the past for the resolution of issues, which caused the delay in implementation.

Ecnec considered a summary titled “ADB-funded Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) in Iesco, Lesco and DISCOs”, submitted by the Ministry of Planning, and approved the proposals.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2021.

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