Govt announces ending free electricity for Discos’ senior officials

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By Webdesk

A power transmission tower is seen a day after a country-wide power breakdown, in Karachi, Pakistan, January 24, 2023. — Reuters
A power transmission tower is seen a day after a country-wide power breakdown, in Karachi, Pakistan, January 24, 2023. — Reuters
  • Interim PM Kakar will hold emergency meeting regarding issue of rising electricity bills.
  • Power theft is estimated at Rs250 billion across country.
  • Depreciation of local currency blamed for hike in power tariffs. 

ISLAMABAD: Power Division Secretary Rashid Langrial announced Sunday the ending facility of free electricity provided to grade 17 and above officers of power distribution companies (Discos).

The summary related to the decision would be prepared soon, Secretary Langrial said whilst briefing journalists in Islamabad on a range of issues related to the power sector.

In July, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recommended ending free electricity facility to all government officers and employees from grade 16-22. 

Moreover, Caretaker Prime Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar would convene an emergency meeting at the Prime Minister’s House today (Sunday) to discuss the issue of rising electricity bills.

The inflated power bills triggered nationwide protests, including Karachi, Rawalpindi, Multan, Gujranwala, and Peshawar. The demonstrators had burnt their electricity bills, blocked causeways and surrounded power distributors’ offices demanding relief for the masses.

During the press briefing, Secretary Langrial also addressed the issue of flaws in the power system, asserting that they need to be fixed.

He also highlighted the problem of electricity theft and circular debt, which currently stands at Rs2,300 billion.

Officials of the power sector present during the press briefing also spoke about power theft, which was estimated to be worth approximately Rs250 billion in the country.

“Net metering is a source of increasing capacity payments, but will have to be terminated at some point,” officials further said.

The officials also addressed the issue of rising electricity bills and opined that the biggest reason for inflated power tariffs was the constant depreciation of the local currency against the US dollar.

During the PAC meeting in July, the audit paras related to the Power Division of the Ministry of Energy for the financial years 2020-21 and 2021-22 were examined.

The committee expressed its strong annoyance over not ending free electricity supply to Wapda employees and decided to write a letter to the prime minister on the issue and to recommend to the prime minister for ending free facility to all officers of grade 16-22.

“The poor pay hefty electricity bills but the elite are being provided free electricity facility,” said PAC’s then chairman Noor Alam Khan. He added that parliamentarians do not avail free electricity or free gas facility

Khan said that free electricity for officers from grades 16-22 should be terminated as the country faced a loss of Rs9 billion annually. He added that he would raise the issue of free electricity in the National Assembly as well.

The PAC chairman asked the power division secretary to hold an inquiry into continuous losses in the power sector and identify those who were responsible for the losses. 

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