ISLAMABAD - AHMAD AHMADANI - The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) has foiled the foul design of ministry of water & power, which had prepared secret plan to collect Rs 136 billion from power consumers in the name of paying soaring circular debt. Moreover, issue of over billing to the tune of millions of rupees has also been surfaced during the proceeding pertaining to the decision of tariff of Lahore Electric Supply Company, sources said on Monday.

Since country’s power sector is surrounded in the ugly net of heavy circular debt only because of bad administration, power theft, billion rupees worth outstanding dues of influential industrialists etc. so water & power ministry, while finding no other option to control the circular debt of the power sector, had prepared a secret plan of heavily charging the power consumers with the loan it acquired from banks only to pay the pending dues of Independent Power Producers (IPPs) and PSO (Pakistan State Oil).

Available documents disclosed to this scribe that ministry of water & power had obtained Rs 136 billion loan with heavy interest rate from private banks in an attempt to pay the outstanding dues of IPPs and state owned oil giant-PSO. To pay the loan and mark up money to the banks, the ministry formulated a secret plan of charging the consumers. Under the plan, power-distributing companies (DISCOs) were advised to get approval from National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) regarding collection of Rs 136 billion loan money from those power consumers who are already paying bills regularly.

Sources in water and power ministry told that owing to increase in LESCO’s tariff, the government will have to give a subsidy of Rs 26 billion or this burden will have to be passed on to the over-burdened power consumers. Under the tariff mechanism, a decision to pass on the subsidy to the power consumers is likely in running month of March after the approval of tariff of eight DISCOs, the sources added.

However, the regulatory authority (NEPRA), obviously contrary to its traditional path, has declined to pass on heavy Rs 136 billion additional burden to the masses already bearing heavy brunt of worst kind of loadshedding and high power tariff rates. While imposing ban on passing such secret burden on masses in future, the NEPRA was of the view that the government instead of improving collections preferred to take loan, while the arrangement of loan is debatable.

Documents further transpired to this newspaper that the masses would have to face high inflation in future to some extent till the completion of term of the incumbent government. According to the available documents, NEPRA has increased power tariff of Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO) from Re1 to Rs4.50/unit for current financial year (2012-13). Under the approved tariff of LESCO, domestic consumers would witness a raise from Re1 to Rs3.50/unit, Railway consumers by Rs2.50/killowhatthour while tariff of industrial/commercial consumers would also go up by Rs3/unit and tariff of agri consumers has also been jacked up by Rs4.50/kwh.

This heavy burden is not enough to add miseries to the common man as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) LESCO, while admitting over billing/collection to its consumers, has however said in the documents that the company is trying to resolve the matter.

It is to be noted here that chairman LESCO had also expressed concern over fleecing the power consumers with Rs 9 0crore under cover over billing in Okara and Kasur circles. While LESCO despite NEPRA’s advice neither improved its performance nor its system.