Outsourcing of power dues

SECRETARY of the Ministry of Energy (P0ower Division) Irfan Ali has hinted at outsourcing the collection of electricity bills in a bid to overcoming difficulties in the recovery of dues. Briefing Sub-Committee of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Friday, he said distribution companies will focus only on distributing electricity. He also attributed the menace of load-shedding and circular debt to theft of electricity and not to issues relating to generation and distribution.
It is, perhaps, for the first time that a senior and relevant official has come out with true perspective of the problems confronting the energy sector of the country. Pakistan has, at the moment, sufficient generation capacity but still the authorities have to resort to load management only because of wide-spread theft of electricity. There are some areas in the KP and Sindh where there is no concept of metered electricity and even Army was unable to unplug illegal direct connections. The situation could have been controlled if the provincial governments that have the implementation and enforcement machinery cooperate with discos but no such cooperation is forthcoming. As a way out, it was decided to link the duration of load-shedding in different areas in direct proportion to theft but this logical move was strongly resisted no other than law-makers who are supposed to uphold the law. There are also individuals and entities that are going scot-free despite being defaulters of billions of rupees. It is because of this that power rates have to be hiked every now and then despite the fact that these are much higher than other regional countries. Outsourcing of dues might be a solution but strict action against defaulters can also help check this trend. It is also time to consider seriously an oft-repeated proposal to give control of discos to the provinces to get rid of theft and default.

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