The Supreme Court has declared all Rental Power Projects (RPPs) in the country illegal when announcing its 90-page verdict on Friday about the cases of corruption practised in their execution for which a petition had been filed by Federal Minister for Housing Faisal Saleh Hayat. PML-N leader Khwaja Asif later became a party to it. These agreements, concluded by the federal government with the owners of RPPs, were, the court maintained, ‘non-transparent’, ‘illegal’ and ‘ultra vires of the Constitution’, Pointing to the massive corruption that flourished under the ruse of the need to quickly bridge the demand-and-supply gap in electricity, the court enjoined the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to institute cases against those involved in it and keep it posted with developments every 15 days. The names of former Water and Power Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and former Secretary Power Shahid Rafi figured among others in this regard. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry who headed the bench, said that the Genco, Pepco, Wapda, Nepra and the federal government were responsible for the corruption of billions of rupees.

It is also worth recalling the Auditor-General’s observations made earlier pointing to a ‘minimum of Rs 60 billion of bungling’ in the RPP affair. He had brought out certain specific instances of undue favours made to the owners or sponsors of the RPPs for which the ordinary consumer of electricity had to bear the burden of excessive billing. For example, the limit of four years set by the Economic Co-ordination Committee of the Cabinet for these plants was exceeded by one year, which was estimated to have caused a loss of Rs 40 billion to the national exchequer. Besides, three plants were accepted that had already run far in excess of the number of hours fixed by the ECC. There was poor follow-up in a case resulting in the failure to recover Rs 7 billion from an RPP that had failed to deliver on generation and the agreement had to be cancelled. There were other cases, no less financially disastrous though, that had come to light. The ultimate paymaster the poor consumer was left to wallow in suffering.

But resigning to the fate of excessive charges did not end the long periods of loadshedding; for the RPPs could not fulfil the promised sufficient production of power to ensure its continuous supply. Though the greed to line one’s pocket has been evident in many government-run institutions and would certainly have contributed to the high inflationary spiral that refuses to come down, nothing has provoked as much public outrage as the swindling done in the RPP deal. Yet nothing apparently has worked with the authorities. Hopefully, the Friday verdict of the Supreme Court would do the trick!