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ISLAMABAD: Minister for Power, Sardar Awais Ahmad Khan Leghari said on Thursday that Discos officials conniving with power thieves in the country will face strict action and Boards will be reconstituted and made responsible for their respective Discos’ performance.

Addressing his maiden press conference, the Minister said that Power Division has submitted complete roadmap of sectoral reforms in the power sector, implementation on which will commence soon. The reforms plan has also been discussed with the line ministries.

“We have reviewed all weaknesses of power sector within three weeks’ time and deliberated on each issue minutely after which we have presented a comprehensive reforms roadmap to the Prime Minister. Details of proposed reforms will be shared with the media within a week,” he added.

Crackdown on power thieves continues

He said Discos receivables are Rs 1.9 trillion, major chunk of which is related to the private sector. The volume of losses of Discos is expected to reach Rs 560 billion by the end of current fiscal year, of which Rs 200 billion is the amount Discos bill to consumers but do not receive whereas over Rs 300 billion will be related to units which Discos siphon.

The minister maintained that the financial benefit of these losses is made available to those consumers who are involved in theft and Discos officers who facilitate such illegal activity.

“Theft related losses have substantial impact on the country’s economy, which we cannot afford now. There will be no consideration of relationship between an officer with any minister/politician or officer sitting in the Ministry. Our country cannot afford this type of activity anymore,” Leghari added.

Minister said there will be no mercy for power thieves and Discos officials i.e. CEOs, SE’s XENs, SDOs, Line Superintendent or Lineman, as the country cannot bear the burden of these officials.

“Electricity is as essential service. Anyone who wants to protest against government’s action, go ahead. Government will not pay any heed to it. We have the firm belief that not more than 20 per cent officials are involved in theft. We will not allow these 20 per cent officials to use remaining 80 per cent as protective shields,” he said, adding the government would take to task those officials conniving with the electricity stealers.

The minister further contended that if Discos take appropriate action ‘dirty’ officials could be shown the door after formal inquiries. The country has sufficient new Electrical Engineers who can be trained in just months before assigning them this responsibility.

The minister not only appreciated officials of FIA for extending support in anti-theft drive but also thanked them for their endeavours in this regard. The financial burden of theft is being shifted to honest consumers through massive over-billing, he reiterated.

He said new Boards of Discos would be in place within a week with the approval of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

“New Boards will be completely depoliticized and comprised of sector experts,” he said.

In reply to a question, he said the government would go for a holistic and healthy review of Net Metering, keeping view that the investment made by the middle classes or lower middle should not go in the dust bin.

“We will encourage Net Metering in future but perhaps the rate of return will not be the same as currently available as investment on solarisation will be recovered in one and half years,” he continued.

Responding to a question regarding privatisation of Discos, the minister said it was not the government’s job to run a business, and queried as to how a Secretary or Joint Secretary of a Ministry could take a decision while sitting on a Disco Board.

“The question of future of Discos (privatisation or long-term concessional agreements) is on the table of the Cabinet and Prime Minister who will take a final decision next week which will be implemented through new Boards,” he said.

The minister stated that he was opposed to cross subsidisation through industry, saying that industry was cross subsidising domestic (life line) consumers to the tune of Rs 260 billion, which was a burden on industry. He suggested that lifeline consumers might be given a subsidy from social safety mechanism.

Leghari said the federal government was extending Tariff Differential Subsidy (TDS) of Rs 170 billion per annum to KE as the power utility company had not invested on cheaper generation and transmission line.

He further stated that Rs 7.5 billion per annum was being spent on salaries and other perks of officials, who were sitting in dysfunctional power plants and pledged that the government would take a decision on it.

“Our key finding is that if the energy sector improves, Pakistan will economically advance. Industry, commercial sector and agriculture will be able to perform better,” he added.

In reply to another question, the minister said that different options including staggering of debt of power plants and increase in consumption through a package are under consideration aimed at reducing the burden of capacity payment.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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KU Apr 19, 2024 09:02am
If it's only music they will face, then we already know that no one will be caught. This ongoing crime against the economy is usually punished severely in other countries.
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