Viable solution to power theft

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NATIONAL Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) on Friday proposed a ban on trade unions in Distribution Companies (Discos), maintaining that this is the “only solution” to eliminate theft, over-billing and losses.

The proposal came from Director General (NEPRA) Naveed Ullah Sheikh at a meeting of a Sub-Committee of National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Power, which discussed losses, recovery, load-shedding and other administrative issues of Discos in Sindh.

The idea is worth-consideration and implementation as the menace of theft and over-billing owes its existence to the collusion of the staff, which is shielded by trade unions in case some action is initiated by the management against the culprits.

There are, of course, honest employees as well but a majority of the staff members of Discos are allegedly involved in corrupt practices and resist reforms being introduced by the department to bring down the losses.

According to official estimates, power theft worth Rs. 53 billion took place during 2018 which is assumed to have risen since then and the practice of over-billing is done to cover up the losses from honest consumers.

The practice of inflated bills continues even after introduction of image reading as in some areas presumptive reading and photo reading is done alternatively on the pretext of shortage of staff.

The instance of theft would come down significantly if colluding officials are held accountable and given exemplary punishment, which is not possible in the presence of unions and, therefore, they need to be disbanded as supply of electricity has also become an essential service.

Recovery is yet another important issue as Hesco alone suffered losses of Rs. 106 billion in twelve years due to lower recovery and it is time the issue is handled with active cooperation of the police and respective provincial governments.

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