In the two years the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government has ruled the country so far, it has failed to bring about improvement in the condition of power companies as performance of even the efficient ones has started going down because of unchecked electricity theft.
A key reason for the sorry state of affairs is the appointment of heads of power distribution companies on political considerations, ignoring the merit and expertise.
Historically, the performance of distribution companies in Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has not been up to the mark, but now the companies in Punjab are also not doing good as electricity theft goes unchecked.
The Islamabad Electric Supply Company (Iesco), Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco), Faisalabad Electric Supply Company (Fesco) and other companies in Punjab were working exceptionally well when compared with firms in other parts of the country, but their condition has started deteriorating now.
The disclosure was made in a series of meetings held on April 11, 12 and 14 at the Ministry of Water and Power in order to assess the performance of distribution companies.
During the meetings, it was noted that the collection of consumer bills by Iesco was very poor and losses in March were far higher than the set target. No FIR was registered in the month and only two FIRs were lodged in the past nine months, indicating lack of interest on the part of management to reduce transmission and distribution (line) losses.
Evaluating the performance of Lesco, the meeting participants said no analysis was carried out about the top 10 current and previous defaulters or adjustment made. A hefty amount was outstanding under the head of ‘running’ and ‘deferred’ defaulters and for its recovery the company was directed to launch a special campaign.
The head of Lesco was also asked to cut transmission and distribution losses in line with the target given by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra).
Line losses of the Multan Electric Power Company (Mepco) also increased in March compared to February. The meeting participants directed the head of the company to control the losses and ensure 100% remittance of consumer bills to the Central Power Purchasing Agency (CPPA) every month.
In the case of Fesco too, the remittances in March were on the lower side compared to a month earlier. They noted that there were some feeders where losses were more than 20% and directed the company chief to curb the losses.
Following the performance review meeting, heads of different power companies were given targets to bring the losses under control in April.
The government then issued show-cause notices to five distribution companies for their inability to control electricity theft and improve collection of consumer bills, warning them of disciplinary action.
According to officials of the Ministry of Water and Power, the notices were sent to chief executive officers of Fesco, Hyderabad Electric Supply Company, Quetta Electric Supply Company, Sukkur Electric Power Company and Gujranwala Electric Power Company.
The ministry asked them to explain their position within 14 days, otherwise disciplinary action could be taken against them.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2015.