Senate panel wants end to free power for electricity firms’ workers

Updated January 22, 2020

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In response to a question, the committee was told that about 136m units were consumed by these employees over and above their entitled units. — APP/File
In response to a question, the committee was told that about 136m units were consumed by these employees over and above their entitled units. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: A Senate panel on Tuesday asked the government to come up with some alternative options such as monetisation to replace the existing practice of free electricity facility for the 198,000 employees of the power companies to avoid financial bleeding.

The Senate Standing Committee on Power, headed by Senator Fida Mohammad, was informed that about 391 million electricity units were provided free of cost to the 198,222 employees of the Water and Power Development Authority, distribution companies (Discos) and generation companies (Gencos) during fiscal 2018-19. The total cost of these free units was estimated at Rs5.26 billion, officials of the power division reported.

The committee was told that free units were being provided to the employees as part of their service benefits. It was explained that the facility could not be withdrawn altogether since it was part of the employees’ contract, but ways and means could be considered to avoid misuse.

Some senators suggested monetisation of the facility by offering alternative allowances in salary equivalent to the employees’ ceilings of free electricity units so that they could start thinking about energy saving and conservation. It was also observed that electricity being supplied to the staff to a large extent was not properly metered or billed and hence misused in the neighbourhoods.

The meeting was told that out of total 198,221 total staff, 16,591 were officers while the remaining 181,631 were in non-officer grades. The officers together consumed 80m units worth Rs1.382bn during the fiscal 2018-19. The lower grade officials consumed 311m units worth Rs3.88bn.

The meeting was told that the total number of 198,222 included about 150,000 existing employees and 48,000 retired employees, their families or widows. It was informed that Discos’ employees in grade 1 to 4 were entitled to 100 free units per month, which increased to 150 units for grade 5 to 10 and reached 200 units for those in grade 11 to 15. Grade 16 employees were entitled to 300 monthly units, followed by 450 units to grade 17 officers. Officers in grade 18 and 19 got 600 and 880 units, respectively, followed by 1,100 units of grade 20 officers. Officers in grade 21 and 22 each were getting 1,300 free units.

On the other hand, the employees of Gencos in grade 1-4 were getting 300 units per month which increased to 600 units to grade 5-16 employees. Grade 17 officers of Gencos were entitled to 650 units followed by 700 units to grade 18 and 1,000 units to grade 19. Similarly, the officers in grade 21 and 22 were provided 1,300 units per month.

In response to a question, the committee was told that about 136m units were consumed by these employees over and above their entitled units. This cost about Rs1.911bn during the year under review and was properly billed to and paid for by the staff and officers who exceeded their ceilings.

Moreover, it was explained that retired staff and officers were also allowed free of cost electricity but half of their entitlements in service. For example, a serving officer in grade 22 was entitled to 1,300 units per month but on retirement, he/she would get only 650 units.

The committee noted that there was need to introduce e a new formula regarding the provision of the facility of free units to the employees of power companies. The committee directed the power division to review the facility of the provision of free units to the employees of Wapda, Discos and Gencos and present various options to the next meeting of the panel so that instead of free units, the employees could be provided an alternative facility.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2020