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Senate committee terms sale of Heavy Electrical Complex suspicious

Senate committee terms sale of Heavy Electrical Complex suspicious

ISLAMABAD: The sub-committee of Senate Standing Committee on Finance criticised on Friday the privatisation of Heavy Electrical Complex (HEC) and termed it a conspiracy to sell national assets at throwaway prices.

The sub-committee, headed by Senator Kamil Ali Agha, pointed out that there were several lacunas in the sale agreement with the Cargil Holding Company which had bought the HEC.

“There are serious flaws in the sale deed and we are bound to look at it with suspicions,” Senator Mohsin Aziz said.

He pointed out that there were several missing links in the sale deed, including the status of liquid assets or running assets, raw material, the procedure to determine the value of fixed assets like building and machinery etc.

He also expressed surprise over the fact that the company Cargil Holding had been set up on Dec 10, 2014, and the advertisement for the sale of the HEC was released on Dec 15, the same year and it made the matter more suspicious.

After a lot of questions, Privatisation Commission chairman Muhammad Zubair claimed before the committee that the country lacked interest from investors.

He said the sale of Pakistan Steel Mills had been stopped by the former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in 2005-06 on grounds of alleged corruption and now the country had been bearing Rs1 billion loss a month for the PSM without any production by the entity.

Secretary of Industries Arif Azeem told the committee that there had never been any recommendation from his ministry for the sale of the HEC.

He said the issue had been taken up by the Privatisation Commission in 1997 and placed before the Cabinet Committee of Privatisation, and the prime minister of that time had approved the privatisation.

His statement was a bombshell for senators and Senator Kamil Ali Agha wondered that no department concerned recommended the HEC sale and still the Privatisation Commis­sion came with the idea of the sale itself and proceeded with that idea.

Senator Mohsin Aziz said the situation was complicated and confusing and needed a thorough probe and debate.

“The project was initiated in 1992 and was built at an exorbitant cost, like most of public sector projects, then some officials and politicians injected surplus manpower into it and when the project was mature enough to start production, the government of the time or possibly the same prime minister who is now sitting in the PM House decided to sell it,” Senator Aziz said.

At present, the Privatisation Commission is not clarifying its position before the parliamentary committees on the subject and it is also locked in litigation process with the Cargil Holdings Company on the matter.

The HEC privatisation process has been stalled as the matter is pending in courts.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2016

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