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LAHORE: The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Energy approved on Tuesday inclusion of a new clause in the Nepra Act that empowers the regulator to recommend award of imprisonment for a period of three years or fine or both, refer the case to the respective law-enforcement agency to register the case and book those involved in fleecing the consumers through wrong billing.

The committee approved the amendment in a meeting presided over by Mr Bilal Virk here at Wapda House.

Under the new clause, the consumers will not lodge their overbilling complaints to the sub-divisional officers (SDOs), executive engineers (XENs) or other senior officer in any power distribution company -- Lesco, Mepco, Hesco, Pesco etc -- as the regulator (Nepra) alone will deal with such issues.

“A week and a half before, I had pledged on the floor of the National Assembly to take a solid step in this regard. And now I have fulfilled my promise by getting this clause’s inclusion in the Nepra Act approved unanimously by members of the committee representing all major political parties. Under this amendment, which will soon be approved by the National Assembly, the overbilling will be an offence,” said Federal Minister for Energy (Power Division) Sardar Awais Ahmed Khan Laghari.

Under the current arrangement/procedure, the respective officers in Discos hear the consumers on such complaints. In most cases, the consumers get no remedy and rather they are forced to bribe the officials for correction of their bills.

“After approval of this amendment by the NA, only the regulator can probe such complaints. And if such allegations prove correct, the accused officials will have to face three-year imprisonment or fine or both. In this way, we may not only punish the guilty officials but also control overbilling,” the minister told Dawn.

He said Nepra would be liable to establish offices in all the districts across the country where the consumers may submit their complaints in writing. Each complaint would be decided within a period of three months.

“The new clause will enable Nepra to hear, investigate and award punishment to the guilty officials on the issue of overbilling and refer the case to law-enforcement agency concerned for registration of an FIR. The committee also agreed to send the approved proposal on punishment for overbilling to the assembly for further legislation,” he said.

The minister directed the chief executive officers (CEOs) of the Discos to have close liaison with the MNAs and maintain a transparent record of development projects. “Timely completion of these projects must be ensured,” he said. He asked the CEOs to ensure availability of new applications related to electrification on the websites of respective Discos.

Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2017