ISLAMABAD -  The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government in Monday’s National Assembly sitting passed ‘The Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power (Amendment) Bill 2017’, aiming to control the over-billing issue by imposing penalties.

The government faced a bit difficulty for legislation on the bill moved by Minister for Power Division Awais Leghari as one clause related to ‘surcharge over bill’ was rejected.

The opposition raised objections to the procedure of passing the bill without adopting the normal procedure of legislation.

Leghari, convincing the opposition on different clauses of the bill, remarked that there was a reason to pass the bill in haste as the government wanted to resolve the issue of over-billing as soon as possible. “The government wants to institutionalize adhocism. The passage of the bill will help control over-billing as penalties are mentioned in various clauses of the bill,” Leghari said.

Penalty for default or contravention

According to the clause regarding ‘penalty for default or contravention', ‘any person who acts or the rules and regulation made thereunder or fails to comply with the conditions of a licence issued or registration granted to that person, and such person is a party to such contravention’. 

A company, with a minimum fine of 10 million rupees which may extend to 200 million rupees, and in case of a continuing default with an additional fine which may extend to hundred thousand rupees for every day.

An individual, with a minimum fine of 1 million rupees which may be extended to 10 million rupees and in case of continuing default, with an additional fine which may extend to 10000 rupees for every day during which contravention continues.

Offices of complaints regarding over-billing

The clause relates to ‘offices of complaints regarding over-billing etc’, the authority may establish district-level complaint offices to hear and decide complaints regarding over-billing, non-compliance of instruction respecting metering and collection of approved charges, disconnection in case of non-payment of charges, electric power theft and use of energy for purposes other than for which it was supplied”.

“Any other individual who is found to be party to contravention complained of, to imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or to a fine which may extend to ten million rupees or to both,” says the clause.

The statement of objects and reasons of the bill said, “In the late 90s, the power was unbundled and WAPDA’ distribution function was segregated and transferred to eight corporate entities exclusively licensed in the distribution business with the newly-formed National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA). The 2002 power policy was introduced to facilitate and encourage private sector participation in the sector. A strategy was there needed to take the unbundling plan to its next logical phase includes the establishment of a power market and introduction of proportionate regulatory models.”

Consequently, in 2013, the CCI approved the National Policy 2013, laying down key components of a development strategy for achieving an efficient, competitive and sustainable power sector in Pakistan, it says.

It further says , “The policy not only affirmed the resolve of the federal government to “limit its role to policy making” and to ensure that “unless necessary, service delivery will be promoted through a fiercely competitive and transparent private sector”, it also approved the strengthening of Nepra as “a world class regulatory authority with sophisticated and efficient capacity tariffs and set the foundation for a competitive bidding process,” it says mentioning that in the light of the decision of the CCI, the bill has been designed to achieve the objectives.

The government had to drop the clause regarding ‘surcharge’ which says, “the federal government may, in addition to the tariff determined by the authority, impose a surcharge on such consumer categories as may be notified in the official gazette, to be collected by a licencee in the prescribed manner”.

PPP’s Naveed Qamar, raising the objection to the bill, blew hot and cold for passing the bill in haste. “This is unfair ...Rules should be followed for legislation,” he said.

PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi also came down hard on the government saying, “The government is doing a right thing in a wrong way.”

Women caucus raises voice over DI Khan incident

Lawmakers from government and opposition raised voice over the shocking incident of parading a girl naked in DI Khan.

They said that the government should take action against the culprits. Condemning the incident, they also proposed the ‘women caucus’ to visit the area.

Shortage of water in the country

Responding to a call-attention notice regarding 36 percent (5.9 MAF) shortage of water as announced by the technical committee of IRSA, Minister for Water Resources Javed Ali Shah said that water was being supplied to all provinces as per the distribution plan. Sensing the unsatisfied opposition, the chair with the consensus of the government and the opposition agreed to arrange a meeting on the issue on Wednesday to discuss it at length.

Lack of quorum

The House with the onset of proceedings was suspended for over half-an-hour due to the lack of the required strength. The quorum was pointed out by PTI’s Shireen Mazari.

The government also passed the ‘Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (amendment), 2017’.