ISLAMABAD  -  The Pakistan People's Party has challenged the Minister for Finance to come out clean on details of payments to the IPPs while disbursing the 322 billion rupees to them for clearing the circular debt and make public the website on which this information is claimed to have been uploaded.

In a statement from the Party's Media Office, Senator Farhatullah Babar said that a search of the websites of Ministries of Finance and Water and Power and also of WAPDA and OGRA revealed that no such details had been placed. If the information is not placed on the website of the related ministries and departments, then where has it been placed, he asked adding "this has raised legitimate questions of transparency and accountability".

It is relevant here that the Finance Minister in an interview on Monday claimed that payments to IPPs had been made transparently and the details had been placed on the web. The PPP Senator said that the information available on the website of Finance Ministry about a July 2 meeting simply says that the ECC was informed that a sum of Rs 322 billion has been paid to the IPPs.

It is a bare statement of fact known to every one, he said adding that what was needed to be disclosed but has not been made public are the details about the power produced by each IPP, the time during which it was produced, the rate at which it was paid and the total amount paid to each power producer.

A detailed technical audit of the IPPs was an essential pre-requisite but no such audit was actually carried out before doling out billions to power producers, he said. Who knows if a game of favorites had been played out in the week during which hundreds of billions were paid out, Farhatullah Babar asked.

He said that in order to create an impression of transparency and accountability the web site of the Finance Ministry claims that the IPPs signed MOU pledging to fulfill certain conditions before payments were made to them. However, on closer scrutiny it becomes obvious that it is no more than a false impression.

The first condition, which the IPPs are said to have agreed to, he said, is that all the thermal power plants exceeding 2000 MW capacity will be converted into coal fired plants.

It amounts to hood winking the people as there is hardly any thermal IPP of more than 2000 MW capacity. "What is flaunted as a great achievement is in fact a ruse to create and sustain false hopes that plants using more expensive fuel are being remodeled so as to run on widely available cheap fuel of coal, he said. Seldom before a plain ruse had been so plainly advertised as a great achievement," he said. The second condition claimed to have been agreed by the private power producers, according to the web site, is that they will optimally utilize the available plant capacities. However, in the absence of technical audit giving complete information about a plant's available capacity, the optimal capacity that is desired to be achieved and the time frame within which it is to be achieved it is no more that a vague promise and a false hope he said. What legal force an open ended MoU has to make private producers achieve optimal capacities, or what penalties have been imposed in case they failed to do so, he asked.

A third condition claimed to have been agreed by the private producers is a one month extension allowed by them to PEPCO to make payments. This measure will only give a breather of one more month but will not address the issue of spiraling debt itself which will resurface again as long as the huge difference between the cost of power production and the price at which is sold persists, he said.

Senator Farhatullah Babar said that there is total absence of transparency and a veil of secrecy seems to have been woven around the payments of 322 billion rupees made to the private producers.

Doubts will linger and questions will continue to be asked until the shroud of secrecy is shredded and all relevant information uploaded on the web and the nation informed about where it is available, he said.