Ideally, the consumer should not bear the brunt of bad governance and poor management of a service provider in a free market system. But in Pakistan, more often than not, the consumers become the victims of such malpractices. In a report, State of Industry 2019, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) informs us that the power distribution companies (DISCOs) cover up their losses by overbilling consumers.

Sadly, in a bid to show better performance in terms of distribution losses and electricity theft, these DISCOs overburden the consumers with exorbitant bills. The report of the regulatory body, NEPRA, is an eye-opener for the government. This must not be allowed to pass by unnoticed. As the findings in the report reveal, all ten discos are real examples of mismanagement and poor governance. Their own burden has been passed on to the consumers to mitigate the losses that were made due to systemic inefficiencies and inherent flaws. These are problems that should be fixed by the distribution companies. Even if they are overcharging now, at the very least, these extra charges should be invested back into the company for system upgrades; instead we see it become part of the profit margin.

What is essential to note is that the whole power supply chain of electricity is working for the end consumers or markets. NEPRA does take into account all factors before determining the power tariffs of each DISCO objectively. But we know, as NEPRA’s 2019 report also shows, DISCOs do not follow these rates. Instead, they overburden the consumers for their incompetence and to avoid accountability. Moreover, while passing the increased costs to the consumers, these distribution firms keep the profit margins to themselves.

The state should start looking at DISCOs as public utilities; the government has an additional responsibility to ensure that the prices are rational and affordable. Besides, if the status quo continues, the practices of distribution companies can hamper economic activity seriously. The government must reinitiate its forsaken reform plan if it wants to save the economy and provide some relief to the consumers.