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ISLAMABAD: National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) is said to have become distracted from its actual role of regulator of the power sector and is now giving more focus on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities.

The Mission Statement of National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) is "to develop and pursue a regulatory framework for safe, reliable, affordable, modern, efficient and market-driven environment for provision of electric power to consumers in Pakistan and to maintain the balance between interests of consumers and service providers in line with the broad economic and social policy objectives of the Government and best international practices of the industry".

NEPRA tries to achieve these objectives with the help of various regulatory tools and active participation of the stakeholders.

Background interaction with power sector stakeholders and business community reveal that NEPRA is rapidly becoming more media savvy for the sake of self-projection and focusing less on its mission and objectives.

The increasing electricity prices, blackouts, load shedding and safety incidents reflect a grim picture of the power sector and is symptomatic of requiring more effective regulatory practices. The regulator has not raised the issue of shortage of RLNG due to which consumers are paying higher prices.

Vice Chairman NEPRA, Rafique Ahmad Shaikh, in its recent dissenting note, stated that National Power Control Centre should not be allowed to bear the cost of expensive fuel as it failed to operate RLNG-fired power plants at optimum capacity.

Privatization of public stakes in power sector still remains elusive, which is one of NEPRA's prime objectives that is missing from its actions.

Recently, NEPRA focused more on social front than regulation of the power sector in the name of Corporate Social Responsibility, which is not even the responsibility of NEPRA and is governed by the power sector companies' agreements with Government entities.

NEPRA has been focusing more on inauguration of clinics, educational institutions, water-pumps, distribution of sewing machines, facilitating MoUs signing ceremonies i.e. CSR between licencees and charitable organizations and participating as guest of honour in women empowerment programs etc., in-spite of the fact that licensees do have stakes in NEPRA tariff determinations. Apart from that, the Authority in public hearings regularly emphasizes the sanctity of NEPRA in the courts.

Chairman NEPRA also attracted criticism from business community of Karachi, who boycotted public hearing of KE's monthly FCA.

For CSR activities, NEPRA has hired a Consultant to look after the corporate social responsibility side of power companies, at hefty pay and perks without relevant qualification and any provision in NEPRA Act, Rules and Regulation; and the position itself is neither covered by NEPRA's organogram nor is the position's the functions covered under its Act and Rules.

"While the general public is burdened with increasing prices, load shedding, safety incidents, the Regulator is busy cutting inauguration ribbons for clinics, schools and other social responsibility related programs," said one of the businessmen from Karachi.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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