ISLAMABAD-The Standing Committee on Power was Wednesday informed that the outstanding dues of the IPPs against the government have reached Rs 1000 billion while annually electricity worth Rs 35 billion is being stolen.

The Standing Committee on Power expressed serious reservations on the NEPRA amendment Bill and said that by imposing surcharges the Power Division is trying to find an easy way out to pay circular debt. 

The Standing Committee on Power, which met under the chairmanship of Chaudhry Salik Hussain, MNA, noted that the plan under the legislation which imposes uniform tariff and surcharge is not clear, and directed the Power Division to bring clear plan.

Additional secretary power said that to control the circular debt they are imposing surcharges on the consumers under the proposed NEPRA amendment act. These surcharges will be levied to cover the debt obtained for power projects and power sector, he added.

Chairman of the committee said: “Are these surcharges will help circular debt reduction or further increase the burden on the consumers,”. The circular debt has reached Rs 2300 billion and it is feared that even with imposition of surcharge it may further increase, he added.

The additional secretary Power Division informed that the outstanding dues of IPPs have reached Rs 1000 billion. Besides, he said that electricity worth Rs 35 billion is being stolen annually. To control the circular debt, the electricity theft needs to be controlled, he added. He said that they are negotiating the circular debt with IMF and finalizing its figure. 

The Standing Committee on Power expressed serious reservations on the Bill “The regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power (Amendment) Bill, 2020”, and said that by imposing surcharges the Ministry is trying to find an easy way out to pay circular debt. 

There should be sufficient justification for the Committee to give its nod of approval to the proposed legislation. Salik Hussain along with other members of the Committee pointed out deficiencies in the proposed legislation and observed that the imposition of surcharges should be done by the provinces. The committee said that loss-making Discos, which have played havoc with the country, should be handed over to the provinces. 

The Ministry should ensure that no more waiver should be given to Discos. Salik Hussain also drew the attention of the Committee towards the report of the Auditor General who has pointed out huge irregularities, mismanagement, misappropriation and embezzlement amounting to Rs.3 trillion only by the Power Division. 

The AGP has also put question marks over sustainability of the power sector under the current state of affairs, governance shortcoming and weak financial and administrative controls. 

Salik Hussain held the previous as well as the incumbent government equally responsible for pending the quarterly adjustments. 

Regarding surcharges, the Committee asked the Ministry to come up with a “master plan”, its implications and long term benefits for the public and to address the question that whether is it part of the plan to make the power sector more efficient and can the Ministry in a period of two to the three years be able to lower the price per unit and at par with other countries of the region. 

The Bill was deferred for the next scheduled meeting with the direction that Ministry should get its act together and submit a proper justification for the imposition of surcharge.

The other Bill “The Pakistan Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (No. XXV of 2019)”was also deferred as members from Sindh showed reservations for giving powers of taking cognizance by the officer of the government and opined that this will open doors for corruption and will promote the culture of registering fake FIRs. 

The Committee vowed to call the high ups of Karachi Electric Company (KE) to answer the complaints of legislators. 

The meeting was attended by MNAs Malik Muhammad Amir Dogar, Sher Akbar Khan, Saif Ur Rehman, Lal Chand, Ms Saira Bano, Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada, Shazia Marri, Secretary, Ministry of Power Division and senior officers of the relevant departments.