By Usman Cheema –
Who will catch the thieves?
In an absolute reflection of incompetence the crisis-hit government has failed on the front of curbing electricity-theft in the country let alone the long list of grave issue faced by Pakistan.
Power theft shows an upward trend as compared to the position during the last year.
Documents available with Pique show that there were 18.6 per cent line losses calculated during the first five months of the financial year 2014-15. During the same period of time in previous year, the losses stood at 17.8 per cent.
The present situation and apparent inaction of the government to address the grave issue suggest that there is no immediate end to the power crisis in the country in sight. It is also learnt that instead of putting efforts to curb theft, the government at different occasions sought a cover up for its failure to curb the ever-increasing power line losses by asking NEPRA to increase the justified line losses limit.
Presently NEPRA (National Electric and Power Regulatory Authority) has approved 13.5 per cent as an average limit of the justified line losses. Any figure crossing this limit can be considered simply electricity theft though NEPRA’s justified line losses limit varies on the basis of infrastructure of a distribution company.
NEPRA only calculates the losses that may occur in the process of transmission and distribution of electricity and it does not incorporate electricity-theft ratio while determining the Transmission and Distribution (T&D) losses.
As per law the justified line losses are incorporated in the power tariff but any other loss crossing that limit have to be covered by the distribution company or the owner that is the government of Pakistan. What really happens about these losses exceeding the approved limit that nobody is ready to pay them and that ultimately pile up the payables of power sector.
Interesting thing is that NEPRA does not allow transferring the burden of electricity-theft to the innocent consumers but ultimately people of Pakistan have to pay for it. The sources said that at the end of the day the government will have to provide money from the budget to clear this amount and that comes from the taxes paid by a common man.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, after taking charge of government, paid about Rs. 450 billion to clear the outstanding amounts of Independent Power Producers (IPPs) and Pakistan State Oil (PSO) as well. Once again an amount of Rs. 237 billion has piled up as payables of power sector and a major share of this amount is due to unjustified line losses or in simple terms due to power theft.
Present situation suggests that the government once again will have to pay this amount from the budget and the innocent consumers will pay for the crime they did not commit.
The sources told Pique that on average every 1 percent that exceeds the approved line losses limit translates into Rs 10 billion payables. Presently, the line losses are exceeding the approved limit by 5.1 per cent but it is not necessary that at the end of the year the figure will be the same and most probably the final figure would be even higher.
Even if the present figure is taken for the whole year that simply means that an amount of more than Rs 50 billion has been stolen by the electricity thieves and the government is doing nothing about it. The major reason behind this scenario is incompetence of the officials responsible to control theft.
Among the distribution companies, Sukkur Electric Supply Company stood at top with 39.4 per cent line losses, Peshawar Electric Supply Company (PESCO) scored second position with 37.4 percent, HESCO came third with 27.6 percent, QESCO showed 21.7 percent losses and then comes the MEPCO with 19.3 percent losses. LESCO showed line losses of 14 percent, GEPCO 11.1 percent, FESCO 10.8 percent and IESCO appeared as the most efficient distribution company with only 6.1 per cent line losses.
Former MD PEPCO, Nazir Sheikh says, “The situation is even worse as the actual figure of losses is even higher than the reported and the government is involved in figure fudging practices while calculating line losses. Political appointments and lack of will of the government is a major reason behind this”.
“Moreover, I as former MD PEPCO have an understanding that there are people who pay money to the influential politicians to get appointed in different departments of the country. Why would a person perform his duties with honesty who has entered the organization by bribing the authorities?” questions Nazir Sheikh.
The writer is an Islamabad based journalist