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LAHORE: The Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco) is set to take disciplinary action against its 530 employees, including 100 sub divisional officers (assistant managers operations), who have been found guilty of “resorting to overbilling in a bid to minimise the line losses”.

The action is being taken against the officers/officials under the Lesco rules and regulations after a ministerial inquiry committee and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) sought to do so in the light of an audit para that pointed out overbilling worth billions to thousands of agriculture connections during the last five years or so in Kasur Circle alone, it is learnt.

“Show-cause notices to 130 meter reading supervisors and 300 meter readers have recently been issued. The notices, which will also be issued to 100 SDOs in a day or two, have been signed and all these officials will be taken to task for fleecing the consumers,” Lesco Chief Executive Officer Wajid Ali Kazmi told Dawn on Wednesday.

“The audit para, which was observed in 2014 internal audit, has now almost been settled after the Lesco administration fulfilled the four-point PAC’s directions, including initiation of disciplinary action against the officials,” he added.

As for the background of the case, the Lesco CEO said that during the 2014 internal audit, it was observed that the officials were involved in overbilling of Rs3.8 billion on 4,200 tubewells out of the 16,000 connections in the 27 sub divisions of Kasur circle. Following the audit observation, the Department Accounts Committee (DAC) also started inquiring the matter by summoning the senior Lesco officials from time to time.

In the meantime, he said, the Ministry of Water and Power on various reports took action and constituted an inquiry committee. The committee after inquiring the issue set aside Rs3.8 billion amount for being a disputed one, directing Lesco to adjust the same in the monthly bills of 4,300 consumers.

He said the PAC also took up the issue and issued four recommendations, including adjustment of Rs3.8 billion overbilled amount in the consumer bills, carrying out another audit to detect more cases in the circle, updating the line losses’ record from 2009 to 2016 and initiating disciplinary action against the guilty officials.

He said Lesco carried out a survey and found another 4,500 such tubewell connections/consumers who were overbilled to the tune of Rs0.86 billion. However, the amount of Rs3.8 billion charged to 4,300 consumers was not the factual one as it was over Rs2.5 billion. So the total overbilled money charged on 8,800 consumers appeared to be Rs3.56 billion and the amount was adjusted accordingly.

The Lesco chief said since the PAC had discussed this issue in various meetings, the only thing left to be done on the part of Lesco was initiation of a legal action against the officials. The PAC had sought the action to be initiated by August last year as recommended by the inquiry committee. However, the previous Lesco authorities delayed it for reasons best known to them.

“When I took over the charge, I personally paid attention to this issue by ensuring implementation of all the recommendations one by one. The only thing that remained was the action against guilty officials. So we identified the officials involved and started taking action,” he claimed.

“During the PAC’s meeting on Wednesday, we reported that the last recommendation (action against the officials) has also been implemented in letter and spirit,” Mr Kazmi said.

Talking about the line losses, he said Lesco’s Kasur circle was on top of the list. Despite many efforts such as FIRs against the power thieves and disciplinary action, the issue of line losses couldn’t be controlled.

“In the last couple of months, we have paid special attention to this issue in order to reduce line losses by punishing the electricity thieves through an effective follow-up system,” the CEO said.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2017