Summers in Pakistan are intense and further worsened by the load shedding of electricity and shortages of water in all the cities. There was a time when load shedding and water issues were faced only by the southern parts of the country; however these problems have now become a harsh reality throughout the country. Managing the inefficiencies of key utility sectors needs to become an immediate and primary concern for the leaders of the country. However, with well recorded corruption issues penetrating both these and other utility sectors there is still a long way to go before citizens have peaceful and uninterrupted services.
Feedback from Consumers
The National Corruptions Perception Survey conducted in 2010 by Transparency International Pakistan revealed that citizens thought that the power sector was the second most corrupt agency in the country. The same survey reported that over one-third of respondents who had an electricity connection were forced to use an ‘alternative process’ such as bribery to get electricity. Numerous respondents were forced to resort to paying bribes even before they actually obtained the electricity connection.
70% of the complaints received by the Wafaqi Mohtasib (Ombudsman) Office in 2007 were regarding the utility companies. The most common complaints were billing related where some respondents admitted to illegally reducing their bills and others were issued inflated bills in the hopes of extracting bribes.
It should be noted that during such surveys some respondents may not respond honestly and actually hide whether they ever paid a bribe or not. This shows that though people are very acutely aware of the ethical wrongness of bribes they are usually forced into a situation where they have no other choice.
Reported Corruption in the News
The Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) implemented and issued statements against bribery in its organization. According to senior officials, 120 cases were reported and under investigation during their ‘Speak Up’ campaign for bribery. There were comments by the CEO stating that the concept of bribery only existed if supported by a chain of officials and such acts would not be tolerated. However, he also said that no action could be taken without proof. Considering the sheer number of employees in the organization 120 is not a significant number. That said, KESC should be applauded for their initiative in recognizing the problem as well as for their attempts to curb the issue.
Clean water, which should be available to all as a basic human right, has yet to be provided to all citizens. The Clean Drinking Water Initiative was approved in 2004 and aimed at providing 445 water purification plans to all tehsils in Pakistan. The success of this program has been put into jeopardy due to incorrect planning along with corruption between senior officials and the awarding of contracts to agencies that were going to install the required plants. The government started implementing and measuring water quality standards in 2008. Why it took so long for such a basic program to be implemented has yet to be discovered. There are currently abundant water resources in the country ranging from glaciers to the rivers and finally the oceans. The inefficiencies of irrigation systems and other methods of providing water to the agriculture sectors and the average citizens have yet to be addressed. Farmers openly admit to bribing government irrigation officials who have been quoted as being ‘corrupt, inefficient, and lazy’.
In 2008 there was an appeal sent the President of the company where a number of engineers reported that Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) was placing junior officers on senior positions. It was reported that this extended to positions responsible for one of the largest canals of the country where a non-technical officers was appointed as executive engineer.
The Way to a Cooler Future
As a nation with many obstacles to overcome the leaders of the country must clearly define priorities that will improve the lifestyle of all its citizens. Water and electricity are basic necessities; they are perhaps the two most important utilities in any country. If the government were to implement effective policies many other problems in day to day life would straighten themselves out resulting in a happier, healthier nation.