Islamabad-The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Power deferred two bills related to empowering the police to arrest consumers for theft and to impose surcharges on electricity. The meeting of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Power presided over by MNA Chaudhry Salik Hussain opposed Regulation of Generation, Transmission, and Distribution of Electric Power Amendment Bill 2020).

The ruling PTI MNA Saif Ur Rehman from Karachi walked out from the committee meeting against the attitude of the K-Electric towards the committee. MNA said that senior officers from across the country were attending the standing committee meetings and responding to questions from the members but matters relating to K-Electric remain unattended as the energy ministry was shunning itself from the responsibility. He demanded that, the members from Karachi should be excluded from the committee if their concerns, issues and questions remain unattended and K-E was not attending the committee. He said that they are not just coming to the committees to get the TAs/DAs. 

The committee members opposed the proposed bill seeking amendment to Nepra Act (The Regulation of Generation, Transmission, and Distribution of Electric Power Amendment Bill 2020). 

The chairman and members of the committee showed reservation over the powers to impose surcharges.  The chairman of the committee ruled that the committee would not pass it unless there was a clearly defined mechanism for the surcharge, who would be subject to pay it, where it would be spent, which authority would keep such funds and how much it would be collected.

Minister Omar Ayub said, the surcharge was required among other things to cover the cost of financing and circular debt, for which funds had to be raised, if not through specific surcharges than through taxes in the budget. 

He said a major part of about Rs1 trillion circular debt had developed during the tenure of the previous governments due to un-budgeted subsidies. He said about Rs229 billion out of Rs450 billion blocked by the PML-N government ahead of elections had been passed on to consumers through Nepra’s prior year adjustments.

The federal minister for energy said that 50 perc ent of Circular debt is because of the previous government. He said that the previous government had installed power plants without any planning. Riaz Hussain Pirzada said that, don’t blame the previous government for each and everything and find solution for the problem. The Committee showed reservations on the procedure of tariff determination and Nepra was asked to give in writing the procedure. 

The minister told the committee that unbudgeted subsidies in the circular debt is the major concern of the present Government and this need to be addressed through uniform tariff and to give power of collecting surcharge to Distribution Companies from the consumers as the Federal Government may charge and notify in the official gazette from time to time. 

The Chairman of the Standing Committee opined that, Circular Debt Management plan should be shared with the Committee and that the surcharge which is levied through legislation is not justified and the Ministry should give rationale for this. The said Bill was also deferred for the next scheduled meeting, and the Ministry was asked to address the queries of Members. On the second bill seeking changes to Pakistan Penal Code, Energy Minister Omer Ayub told the Committee that, his Ministry is doing level best to control theft of Electricity in far flung areas of the Country. In this regard, Anti-theft drive is going on for the past two years.

The Pakistan Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (No. XXV of 2019) will authorise a Grade-17 and above officer to take cognizance of an offence. The Minister stressed that, the Provincial Governments should also play their part in curbing the theft of Electricity. The Chairman of the Committee praised the intent of the Bill but deferred it for the next meeting on the request of the Members.