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Penalisation of paying power consumers opposed

ISLAMABAD: Power companies’ policy of disconnecting supply to entire localities in high-loss areas is in violation of the basic human rights since regular bill-paying consumers cannot be treated on the same grounds as non-payers and thieves, the Ministry of Law and Justice told a Senate panel on Monday.

This was a key takeaway at the Senate Standing Com­m­­ittee on Power meeting, presided over by Senator Saif­ullah Abro, wherein the panel strongly condemned the penalisation of paying consumers by power companies.

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The committee discussed the Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power (Amendment) Bill, 2021 and the increase in Fuel Price Adjustment (FPA) with respect to Fata, Pata and Mardan. The meeting also discussed the merger of Alternate Energy Development Board (AEDB) and Private Power & Infrastructure Board (PPIB). Restoration of services of officials in Peshawar Electric Supply Company and illegal reappointment of Quetta Electric Supply Company’s (Qesco) chief executive officer were also discussed.

The committee reviewed the Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power (Amendment Bill, 2021) introduced by Senator Bahramand Khan Tangi.

Senator Tangi said that instead of cutting power supply of those consumers who are paying their power bills, the electricity of power thieves and non-payers of bills should be disconnected. “You cannot treat both (the payers and non-payers) alike,” he argued.

The Senate committee was informed that the proposed amendment was related to operational aspects of the utility business. According to the Ministry of Energy, regulation and legislation did not include operational level details, which were already in place. The panel stood firmly against the penalisation of innocent citizens who have been paying their dues regularly and said that strictest measures must be taken against those who don’t.

The representative of Law Division explained that according to law, bill payers could not be treated on the same grounds as non-payers and supported the bill.

Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz said he himself supported the bill but according to the Ministry of Energy, it could not be implemented because of technical reasons.

Responding to Mr Faraz, Senator Tangi questioned, “It means that if the law is not implemented then parliament should stop making laws?”

The committee decided to further discuss the matter in the next meeting.

While reviewing the implementation status of recommendations made by the panel in its previous meetings, Senator Abro took serious notice of non-implementations of committee recommendations.

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Deliberating over the plight of FPA on electricity bills with respect to Fata, Pata and Mardan, particularly to small industry owners, the committee was of the view that with regards to Fata and Pata, concessions regarding taxes apply and hence must be ensured in this case.

It was stressed that small industries must also be exempted from FPA since they do not possess necessary cushion in terms of payments and instead they should be facilitated through easy installment plan.

The committee members recommended that three installment plan should be available to the small enterprises without any surcharge but a final decision on surcharge will be taken on a later date and directed the Nepra chairman to amicably resolve the issue with the owners of small industries and submit a report to the committee.

Regarding illegal reappointment of CEO Qesco, the Senate committee was informed that a final decision regarding this matter by the high court was expected on February 28 and would be shared with the panel. The committee agreed to wait for the court decision.

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