ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Standing Committee on Power Monday expressed its concern at the Power Division move to allegedly altering the approved bill through an ordinance and sought a briefing from the Minister for Energy in the next meeting.
The standing committee in its previous meeting had approved "the regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power (Amendment) Bill, 2020."
Standing Committee Chairman Chaudhry Salik Hussain said "I am concerned as prima facie wording of the ordinance has been changed vis-à-vis wording of the bill approved by the Committee."
He suggested double check to verify similarity of wording.
On March 4, 2021, the Committee recommended that even if surcharge is capped at 10 percent of the base tariff, power surcharges should not be allowed to pay for future circular debt (which should be budgeted elsewhere by Ministry of Finance and paid for through tax revenues).
Secretary Committee, Syed Jawad Murtaza Naqvi informed the Standing Committee that the government has promulgated an Ordinance to impose surcharge on consumers.
On March 11, 2021, the Standing Committee on Power cleared the Bill, after significant changes. However, the government promulgated an Ordinance giving powers to federal government to impose surcharge up to 10 per cent of total revenue requirement of power sector to meet one of the conditions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Shazia Marri said that the Standing Committee had approved a Bill on the imposition of surcharge, and queried the reason for bulldozing Parliament's proceedings. "What was the reason for promulgating the Ordinance? It is an insult to Parliament," she said, adding that Parliamentarians worked hard to draft the Bill.
Ghulam Mustafa Shah, MNA queried why the Ordinance was promulgated after approval of the Bill by the standing committee.
Secretary Power, Ali Raza Bhutta said that Ordinance was promulgated to implement the decision expeditiously.
The representative of Law and Justice Division informed the Committee that the law is silent on promulgation of an Ordinance in a matter which is under discussion in the Standing Committee.
Ghulam Mustafa Shah, MNA said that the Opposition members will write dissenting notes on the promulgation of the Ordinance.
Shazia Marri argued that her conscience would not permit her to support a further increase in price of electricity which is already on the higher side. She demanded that the Minister should brief the committee on this issue observing that it is an IMF issue.
After discussion, the Committee decided to review the Ordinance promulgated by the Government.
Power Division argued that the power sector has been facing a situation whereby recoveries of Distribution Companies (Discos) from consumers are inadequate to meet the cost of generated electricity and as a result GoP has to provide subsidy, especially to those Discos where leakage, pilferage and theft is rampant. Primarily, this phenomenon emanates from a fragile legal and enforcement structure. Resultantly, the conviction rate of such offences is small.
The Criminal Procedure Code, offences are either cognizable by police (arrest can be made by police without warrant), or by court (a complaint has to be filed before the Court, which then decides whether or not to allow the police to investigate and make an arrest). This amendment was made through Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013 and then promulgated in 2014.
The law as it stands has an anomaly whereby through an amendment to the Schedule of the Criminal Procedure Code the offences relating to electricity were made cognizable by the police, but Section 462-0 made them cognizable by the Court alone. Since the main act prevails over the schedules, the Courts have held that direct FIRs by the Discos (i.e., without first making a complaint to the Court, which is the Session Court in this case), were void, and arrests made by the Police unlawful.
NPCC, in its brief said that being the System Operator (SO) it always follows Economic Merit Order and no discrimination is made between Power Plants at any cost.
However, at times generation has to be taken from costly Power Plants (as per the provision of the Nepra Grid Code Clauses SDC 1.2 and 126.96.36.199) for system stability, reliability, integrity and to avoid the overloading of transmission and transformation system. Out of merit generation taken (due to constraints) since before October 2018 was acute due to power shortfall and generation and was being taken from all available power plants so there was no significant violation of Economic Merit Order (EMO). Constraints in the system will be removed by NTDC in due course of time through various projects of new grid stations and augmentation of the existing grid stations.
NPCC said it has already planned for removal of transmission and transformation constraints in three phases and measures taken or being taken include take or pay contracts, ensuring gas/RLNG supply as per firm demand and implementation of full SCADA system for real time situational awareness and decision making.
The committee was further informed that the process of closure of low efficiency thermal power plants (Gencos) of around 4221 MW capacity and privatization of Guddu and Nandipur Power Plants has been started. Engr. Sabir Hussain Qaimkhani raised the issue of power Generation Companies (Gencos), reasons for their closure and employees' affairs.
MNA Saira Bano said that the newly appointed CEO of Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco) is a blue-eyed of SAPM on Power Tabish Gauhar. However, Secretary Power clarified that the CEO's appointment has been approved by the Cabinet.
Secretary Power stated that employees of public sector power plants which have been shut down are being paid salaries from capacity payment. Four power plants are being privatised. The Committee sought details of employees who have been affected due to privatisation of power plants.
Committee Members also raised their concern on re-emergence of power load shedding in the country especially in their constituencies.
"In my village the duration of load shedding is 23 hours. Development funds are also not being given. ABC cable should be erected in those areas where people are in greater distress," he suggested.
MNA Saif-ur-Rehman took the issue of load shedding in Karachi, saying everyone knows Karachi is facing load shedding of 12 hours, demanding to summon KE officials in the next meeting of committee.
On the proposed privatisation of Discos, Secretary Power informed the Committee that privatisation process is at a standstill and now Management Contracts are being signed with the Discos.
According to official statements, t was told that the Bill is still pending, and during this time the Ordinance was promulgated and the same was referred to the Committee by the National Assembly. It was further told that the wording of the Ordinance is the same as that of bill cleared by the Standing Committee. The Chairman and the Members of the Committee observed that there was no need of the Ordinance and it was asked that both the Bills be double checked and Chairman Mr. Salik Hussain observed that the purpose of deliberating the Bill is to ensure the availability of funds to the Government and resultantly the consumers be benefitted in the long run with the provision of cheap electricity. On the suggestion of Members of the Committee, the Bill was deferred for the next scheduled meeting.
The Chairman CDA did not show up to brief the Committee on the important issue of issuance of new connections to the non-developed areas of Islamabad and region under IESCO. The Committee asked the officer of the CDA to convey their annoyance on the absence of Chairman CDA and decided to call him and CEO of IESCO to brief the Committee in the next scheduled meeting.
The meeting was attended by MNAs Sher Akbar Khan, Ghulam Bibi Bharwana, Malik Anwar Taj, Muhammad Abdul Ghaffar Wattoo, Saif Ur Rehman, Lal Chand, Engr. Sabir Hussain Qaimkhani, Muhammad Israr Tareen, Saira Bano, Sardar Muhammad Irfan Dogar, Muhammad Afzal Khokhar, Syed Ghulam Mustafa Shah, Shazia Marri, Secretary from M/o Power Division & Additional Secretary Finance and senior officers of the relevant departments.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021