Power consumers: audit companies to examine overcharging claims
The Federal Cabinet has directed Ministry of Water and Power to conduct the audit of alleged over-billing to assess the quantum and incidence of over-charging electricity consumers. The Cabinet also decided to lift ban on recruitment in public sector, as well as approved a Rs 25,000 financial assistance per household for flood affectees and decided to provide protection to the minimum wage earner through a legislation.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2014
-- Ban on public sector jobs lifted
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's team was noticeably divided on the issue of over-billing as advisor to Prime Minister on energy Musaddak Malik did not agree to State Minister for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali's contention that power consumers have been overcharged through their last two months' bills.
Speaking at a news conference after a cabinet meeting here on Monday, State Minister for Water and Power said that the Prime Minister was annoyed on the complaints of over-billing and wanted a thorough investigation into the matter through an audit by three different reputable companies to quantity of the amount charged from consumers through over billing. Abid Sher Ali further stated that over-billing at meter-reader's level was evident due to their involvement and mismanagement and the Prime Minister wants the people involved in the matter to be punished on the basis of an audit. The aduit report would be submitted to the Cabinet within three weeks, he said adding that on-going sit-ins have led to a delay in signing of a 4500 MW power agreement.
Advisor to Prime Minister on energy was not in agreement with State Minister and attributed the tariff increase, removal of slabs beyond 200 units and a 5 to 6 percent addition in power generation to the rise in electricity bills. "These three factors have led to increase in electricity price," he added. Minister for Information said the meeting of the federal cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister has decided to remove ban on recruitment in public sector organisations. Recruitment against vacancies in government departments would be made purely on merit in a highly transparent manner, he claimed, adding that a cabinet committee urged oversee the entire process.
He added the meeting also decided to provide a cash assistance of Rs 25,000 to each flood victim family before Eid-ul-Azha. The meeting would also compensate their other losses such as damages to their houses and loss of livestock. The Minister said the meeting also decided to provide a legal cover to the minimum wage. He said that Musaddaq Malik was assigned responsibility by the Prime Minister to submit reports after probing the complaints of over-billing. The report, he added, was submitted to the Cabinet. The Information Minister maintained that the consumers who have received more than 200 units as compared to 200 for the same period of last fiscal year would be entitled to adjust the additional amount in the next month's billing.
Over-billing of up to 300 units would also be adjusted after verification, if there is five percent increase in their bills for the month as compared to same month last year. He added that the decision was taken to give a legal cover to the minimum wage due to the complaints that the increase announced by the government was not being implemented in letter and spirit.