Appointments in Wapda: Ministry challenges recommendations by CCI

ISLAMABAD: Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) has challenged recommendations of Council of Common Interests (CCI) regarding appointments of Wapda Chairman and Members, saying the direction is against the judgment of Lahore High Court (LHC), sources in the Ministry told Business Recorder.

Wapda was established as a body corporate under section 3 of an Act of Parliament in 1958 for the unified and coordinated development of the water and power resources of Pakistan.

The appointment of Chairman and Members of the Authority is to empower the Federal Government under section 4 of the Wapda Act, 1958 and the Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority ( Chairman and Members) ( Conditions of Service) Rules, 1982. Wapda, as a body corporate, is responsible under sub-section( 2) of the section 8 of the Act, 1958, to prepare for the approval of the government, a comprehensive plan for the development and utilization of the water and power resources on a unified and multi-purpose basis. Similarly, “Wapda has been mandated under sub-section ( 2) of the section 9 ibid to undertake execution of schemes with the approval of the government”. In this manner Wapda executes government policies/ directions for development of hydropower and water sector projects by centralized planning and decentralized execution followed by effective supervision. A writ petition (No. 8199/2017) was filed on March 18, 2017 before the Lahore High Court, challenging the selection criteria for appointment of Chairman and Members of the Wapda Authority. In the order, LHC, acknowledged that legislative object can only materialize if the distinctiveness and independence of Wapda is kept intact.

The LHC, while acknowledging independence of Wapda as an institution pillared on federal principle, commented on its structure based on corporatization which primarily aims to achieve operational efficiency by means of creating some distance between the government owners and public managers, easing political interference and allowing managerial freedom.

LHC, in its judgment of January 23, 2018 passed an order that the ” Federal Government and Wapda shall ensure that future appointment of Chairman and its members are strictly in accordance with the principles settled in the judgment and will ensure that the relevant recruitment process is put in place in consultation with the CCI within six months from today if not earlier” – the deadline ended on July 22, 2018.

The Ministry of Water Resources prepared draft recruitment regulations for the post of Chairman and Members, Wapda in consultation with the provinces, the Finance, Establishment and the Law and Justice Divisions. Those were forwarded to CCI in compliance with court’s orders. CCI considered the summary on November 27, 2019 on this matter in its meeting held on December 23, 2019 and instead of approving recruitment process for Chairman and Members , directed recruitment on the following principles tangent to LHC orders ;(a) organizational organogram shall be structured to ensure corporate governance in Wapda;(b) Chairman and Members with no executive powers shall be appointed to oversee policy formulation;(c) CEO and relevant professional staff shall be appointed by the federal government and ;(d) Chairman of the Authority shall be appointed through rotation from all provinces. The decision of CCI has been deliberated upon by the Ministry of Water Resources in the light of existing institutional and legal framework of Wapda the following conclusions were drawn: (i) directions of CCI are not in line with the judgment of LHC order where it was ordered to frame recruitment process for Chairman and Members in consultation with CCI, whereas CCI directed to change the organizational structure of Wapda;(ii) Wapda is an independent and distinct statutory body outside the government departments to materialize the legislative object of having a unified and coordinated development of water and power resources of the country as enshrined in Wapda Act 1958;(iii) As a body corporate, Wapda has been given independent legal status and managerial freedom duly fulfilling the normative criteria of corporatization including equity, transparency, quality of workplace, sustainability, solidarity, public ethos and transferability ;(iv) the concept of appointment of Chairman from provinces on rotation basis will restrict Wapda’s managerial independence and may lead to political interference in technical and managerial decisions ; (v) due to CCI’s non-approval of draft rules, posts of Members (Water) and (Power) are lying vacant since long. They are being filled by adhoc arrangements after seeking the Cabinet’s approval on a quarterly basis which has a serious fallout on the development on ongoing projects of national importance; (v) Wapda has embarked upon execution of mega hydropower/ water sector projects worth $ 26 billion including Dasu, Diamer Basha and Mohmand dam projects, which involve mammoth scale of construction activities by the consultants and contractors. The importance of full-time appointments of the technical members of the Authority viz. the Member (Water) and Member (Power) has become essential in order to ensure that all policy decisions to be made at the level of Wapda’s Authority concerning the contract administration of civil works and consultancy services are made with due diligence based on collective wisdom; (vi) as a corollary of not having full-time technical Members in the Authority, the fate of implementation of the projects of $ 26 billion is bound to face serious technical issues would result into heavy time and cost overruns;( vii) major source of $ 26 billion funding of the projects is being arranged by Wapda from commercial financing institutions that put reliance on Wapda’s existing organizational structure may jeopardize entire efforts/cash flow, which is a life line for timely completion of the projects and ;( vii) due to considerable delay in finalizing, there is an apprehension of adverse orders from LHC who directed to put in place pre-requisites for selection of Chairman/ Members of Wapda Authority and acknowledged existing organizational structure and its efficacy pillared on federal principle.

In terms of Rule-16(j) and (k) of the Rules of Business, 1973, and in compliance of entry 1 of the schedule II, Rule 10 of Rules of Procedure of the CCI, the matter has been referred to the Federal Cabinet for soliciting recommendations/ approval of the Cabinet the following proposals before the CCI in its upcoming meeting schedule for August 6, 2020 : (i) draft rules of appointment of Chairman and Members duly endorsed by the provinces to be approved by CCI and ;(ii) in order to keep intact the distinctness and independence of Wapda, its existing structure, as body corporate pillared on Federal Principle, may be allowed to continue to materialize the legislative object of having unified and coordinated development of water and power resources as enshrined in the Wapda Act, 1958.

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