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ISLAMABAD: Senate Standing Committee on Power on Tuesday scolded the top brass of Power Division for shifting burden of their “incompetence” onto the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concerning electricity losses, theft and massive under-recovery, final burden of which is being passed on to those consumers who pay their bills, or made part of the circular debt.

Presided over by Senator Saifullah Abro, the Committee also expressed its ire on the poor capacity of those officers who failed to provide required information or elaborate/ clarify to the satisfaction of its members. The Committee was concerned at the inflated electricity bills due to which people are on the roads. Power Division officials maintained that the entire society, including government, is responsible for failure of power sector.

“We drag in politics on all matters including the IMF on the electronic media; we have ceded our responsibilities to the IMF. Has the IMF barred the government from recovering its dues from consumers or nab power thieves or give direct connections to those who do not pay bills and are involved in theft? Is the IMF responsible for non-recovery of Rs 1.3 trillion from defaulters,” queried Senator Bahramand Khan Tangi.

‘Inflated’ power bills: Obdurate IMF refuses to buy into govt data

Additional Secretary (III), Power Division, Arshad Majeed Mohmand who was leading Power Division team in place of Secretary Incharge, Rashid Mahmood Langrial, expressed his disappointment at the performance of senior officers of attached organisations/ departments as they failed to satisfy the Committee Members. But, he added that the entire government is busy finding out a mechanism to resolve the issues of the power sector and provide relief to the consumers.

Power Division officials provided justification for the current tariff structure of each category of consumers, saying that they need to ensure full cost recovery from consumers and the government is extending subsidy to protected categories of domestic consumers under the National Electricity Policy. They further noted that over 60 per cent domestic consumers are getting subsidy.

Chairman Standing Committee summoned Chairman Nepra Waseem Mukhtar for a briefing on inflated electricity bills.

The Committee directed Power Division to review its tariff application mechanism for domestic consumers as current mechanism is unfair and financially hurts those consumers who have used a single unit over and above 200 units in six months.

Power Division officials; however, conveyed their regret at the proposal of the Standing Committee, saying that it is not easy to change the current mechanism, adding that this mechanism has not only compelled domestic consumers to use electricity sparingly but has also discouraged those consumers who live in big houses and enjoy a subsidy.

To a question, the Committee was informed that the Finance Division is in talks with the IMF on the electricity prices issue, adding that the Power Division has to honour commitments made to the international lender.

The country’s current installed capacity is 44,943 MW whereas the de-rated generation capacity is 37,991 MW. The country can consume 30,000 MW of electricity If Discos’ system constraint, notably recovery-based load management condition is removed.

Responding to a question, Additional Secretary Power Division, Zaffar Abbas informed the Committee that a final shape has been given to the law against power theft which is expected to be promulgated through an Ordinance.

The Committee directed the Power Division to provide a record of the generation and capacity payments of Independent Power Producers (IPPs).

The issue of absence of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) KE Syed Moonis Abdullah Alvi was also highlighted during the meeting. The Committee Chairman sought assurance from KE official present in the meeting to ensure CEO’s presence in the next meeting to avoid any legal action.

According to a press release, Chairman Committee after deliberating at length concluded that the only resolution of this country-wide energy crisis is to make efforts to review the agreements of IPPs in detail and estimated price be re-evaluated as per its legal framework. He said that the IPPs should not work independently without monitoring as it is leading to over invoicing. He said that the entire infrastructure needs re-examination and review on clauses of misinformation and fraud.

The Committee remarked that the entire power sector has been set up by IPPs and inquired on what basis the payments were made to the IPPs. The Committee expressed its serious reservation on non-provision of 10 years break down of payments made to IPPs and resented that CPPA-G being the centre of the power division should know details on figure tips.

The Committee reiterated that the people of our country will never get relief until the Power Division stops appointing and continuing unqualified officers. It was apprised that 104 IPPs and 34 out of 46 IPPs have signed the IPPs relief agreement where tariff rates are being revised. The officials said that people will benefit from revised agreement with IPPs. The committee sought detailed data on the IPPs, estimated tariff figures and the basis on which it was finalised earlier.

The Chairman Committee said that all departments will have to play an enthusiastic role to eliminate this dilemma.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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