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LAHORE: Large-scale bill adjustments against the overbilling of past many years enhanced line losses of the Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco) from 12.6pc in the second half of 2016 to 13.4pc in the corresponding period in 2017.

The percentage of line losses may be recorded as increased during the first quarter of this year if the ministry continues to order the company make bill adjustment against the previous years’ overbilling.

When the ministry of energy (power division) was informed by the company in November about the adverse impact of the bill adjustments for the previous years’ overbilling (2009 onwards) in form of increase in the ratio of line losses, the officials were asked to follow the orders alone. The increased percentage of line losses adversely affected the good performance of the officials who implemented the recent government orders and hid the inefficiency of those responsible of the ‘crime’ in the past.

According to a letter, titled “implications of eliminating over/advance billing”, written by Lesco to the power division, the company termed overbilling a chronic and deep-rooted issue.

“Overbilling has been chronic and deep-rooted problem in Lesco since past many years. However, the primary focus has been its gradual reduction and control in a phased manner,” the letter reads.

It mentions that in pursuance of the ministry’s guidelines and directions, bill adjustments for the past years’ overbilling were carried out during the fiscal year of 2016-17 to address the problem areas of agriculture tube wells in Kasur and Sheikhupura, Punjab government connections and industrial and other connections.

It says since the power division federal minister’s directives have already been initiated, the current exercise however unveiled further areas where the overbilling was done by the field formations in the past. These areas were hidden but now exposed due to proposed law of three years imprisonment on overbilling and strict disciplinary action taken by the company against the guilty officials.

The letter reveals that while following the ministry’s directions, 11,829 consumers (mostly tube wells and industrial) were posted zero consumption in October 2017 while the same were billed 38m units in September 2017 and 24m in corresponding month of the previous year. Similarly, another analysis indicates that 23,444 consumers have been over 70pc less charged units in October 2017 in comparison with the previous billing month.

“The situation has left an adverse impact on the figures of losses during the aforementioned period (October 2017). However, impartial and independent teams have been constituted to verify all connections where fall in consumption observed to avoid any malpractice. A fact-finding committee has also been constituted to probe in depth on the issue,” the letter reveals.

Talking to Dawn, an official said that due to the ‘strange criteria’ of evaluating distribution companies (Discos) performance, most of the competent, honest and hardworking senior officials would better think to remain in low profile rather than taking appointment on senior positions—especially the head of any Disco.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2018