Authorities move to end free electricity for Discos officers

Transmission lines. — AFP/file

ISLAMABAD: Amid outcry over inflated electricity bills, the authorities have moved to end the provision of free electricity to grade 17 and above officers of electricity distribution companies (Discos), according to an announcement made by Secretary Power Division Rashid Langrial.

Secretary Langrial revealed the decision whilst briefing journalists in Islamabad on a variety of issues pertaining to the power sector.

“Summary related to the decision will be prepared soon,” he added.

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

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

The inflated power bills triggered nationwide protests, including in 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 today, 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 Rs2300 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 means 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 of 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 grades 16-22.

“The poor pay hefty electricity bills but 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 grade 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.