The federal government is all set to settle the dispute on longstanding electricity arrears amounting to Rs 70 billion with new Chief Minister Sindh.
“We are ready to meet the new Chief Minister in Karachi so that the chronic issue of arrears can be settled as early as possible,” said Khawaja Asif, Minister for Water and Power during proceedings of National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Water and Power.
Khawaja Asif made his comments when Syed Ghulam Mustafa Shah, MNA from Sindh, expressed his annoyance at the duration of power load shedding in his constituency which hovers around 16-18 hours. “Minister sahib, please have mercy on us.
Help us in getting due share of electricity,” said the former Chairman National Assembly Standing Committee on Water and Power.
Minister for Water and Power, who attended the standing committee after a long time, reciprocated in the same tone, saying ” You should also have mercy on us and help us in recovery of billions of rupees from Sindh and if after that we are be at fault, don’t spare us .”
Ghulam Mustafa Shah maintained that he alongwith Nawab Yousuf Talpur was ready to arrange a meeting between the Sindh government and Ministry of Water and Power to reach an amicable settlement of outstanding dues.
On this, an angry Khawaja Asif stated that the Sindh government was not even ready to pay the reconciled amount. Nawab Yousuf Talpur also expressed willingness to settle the issue with Sindh government.
Secretary Water and Power, Younus Dagha informed the standing committee that he has constituted committees at the Division level under the chairmanship of Commissioners who as the representatives of Sindh government, not the federal government, to settle the issue of arrears and theft but unfortunately these committees have done nothing so far.
Khawaja Asif stated that Ministry of Water and Power has requested Sindh government to pay whatever they think is indisputable.
“We have asked Sindh government to pay what they think they owe us, even if out of one rupee they reckon only six paisas is what is actually due but they are simply not inclined to pay,” adding that 150 houses are being supplied from connections of one Police Station.
The Minister also acknowledged that Discos are also sending wrong bills to the consumers.
Khawaja Asif argued that if Discos disconnect electricity to WASA, the whole of Sindh will suffer and likewise if electricity to KWSB is cut off, which is a defaulter of Rs 36 billion, Karachi will suffer. In June 2016, federal government had offered Sindh government to pay only Rs 30 billion out of Rs 70 billion on the basis of 60:40 ratio.
Ministry of Water and Power also offered to help arrange amount from the Finance Ministry. Secretary Energy Sindh agreed to pay the agreed amount but later on the provincial government backed out from its commitment.
Chairman Standing Committee Arshad Khan Leghari was also supportive of the stance of federal government.
Most of the Members of Standing Committee made a hue and cry on forced load shedding in their respective constituencies.
Minister for Water and Power, accepted that there was forced load shedding during Ramazan as around 1000 MW hydel generation was not available to the system because provinces did not send indents to Indus River System. Minister claimed that presently there was no forced load shedding but Members rejected his claim.
Nawab Yousuf Talpur claimed that his constituency was also facing consecutive 3-4 hours force load shedding each day despite 99 per cent recovery. Minister promised to address his complaint.
The issue of over-billing in Multan Electric Power Company (Mepco) and Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco) also came under discussion as most of the members hurled complaints against the management of both the companies.
Rao Ajmal, MNA, registered a complaint against Deputy Secretary (Development) Ministry of Water and Power for unnecessary involvement in the development work in his constituency. Minister for Water and Power promised to take remedial measures in this regard.
According to a press release, the following items were on the agenda of the meeting: (i) presentation of the report of the Sub-Committee constituted on the issue of performance of DISCOs of Sindh; (ii) implementation status of the recommendations made by the Standing Committee in its meetings during the quarter 1st January, 2016 to 30th June, 2016; (iii) Ministry to brief the Committee on all types of energy development schemes/projects (hydel, solar, wind, coal etc) underway in the country; (iv) a comprehensive briefing by the Alternative Energy Development Board on the projects undertaken by the Board from 2013 to enhance the production of electricity in the country, their date of commencement, present status and expected date of completion; and (v) present status of development Projects/Schemes of National Transmission Dispatch Company (NTDC).
Secretary Ministry of Water and Power admitted that theft of electricity could not have happened without the involvement of Discos’ employees and this matter could not be resolved without the cooperation of provincial governments.
The Committee recommended the Ministry to take provincial governments on board to resolve the matter and also take strict action against the culprits.
The Committee was informed that the government of Sindh has to pay Rs 70 billion to Federal Government in terms of outstanding amount of electricity which has not been paid yet.
The Ministry sought support of the Committee to resolve the matter. The Minister took notice of the forced Load-shedding of electricity in some Discos and directed the management to report to the committee regarding the matter and assure the committee that strict action would be taken against those responsible.
The committee also directed the Ministry to eliminate the factor of overbilling in order to facilitate the individual consumer.
MNAs Muhammad Junaid Anwaar Chaudhry, Malik Ihtebar Khan, Sardar Mansab Ali Dogar, Rana Muhammad Ishaq Khan, Pir Muhammad Aslam Bodla, Rao Muhammad Ajmal Khan, Syed Ghulam Mustafa Shah, Nawab Muhammad Yousuf Talpur, Malik Ghulam Rabbani Khar, Junaid Akbar, Maulana Muhammad Gohar Shah, Dr Syed Ghazi Ghulab Jamal and Sahibzada Muhammad Yaqub attended the meeting, besides officials of the Ministry. -Business Recorder