ISLAMABAD: The federal government has accused the Sindh government of looking the other way as electricity theft continues in the province, at times even blocking steps taken against influential people involved in power pilferage.

This only results in greater power cuts to consumers of three utilities — the Hyderabad and Sukkur electricity distribution companies and Karachi-Electric (KE).

In a statement on Sunday, the federal energy ministry said the Sindh government never extended any support to distribution companies (Discos) of the federal government in addressing the menace of electricity theft. “The Sindh government has politicised common national interests,” said a spokesperson for the ministry.

“In some cases, Sindh government backed influential people when action was taken over electricity theft and blocked registration of FIRs (first information reports) against such powerful individuals,” the spokesperson said.

Official says at times the provincial government blocked steps taken against powerful people involved in pilferage

The federal ministry was responding to media reports that Sindh’s Energy Minister Imtiaz Shaikh had written letters to the chief executives of KE, Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco) and Sukkur Electric Power Company (Sepco) over power cuts in the province and convened a meeting with them.

Mr Shaikh, according to the reports, asked the KE management to provide a copy of the agreement it had reached with the federal government. He also invited the chairman of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra), Tauseef H. Farooqi, to visit Karachi.

In a statement, Mr Shaikh had accused the federal Energy Minister Omar Ayub Khan of misleading the Senate over the question of loadshedding, saying that although the latter had admitted to “loadshedding” across the country while talking to the media, in the upper house of parliament he referred to the same problem as “load management”.

The provincial minister said the federal government would have to take “practical steps” if it was serious in eliminating loadshedding. He said the Sindh government was ready to extend cooperation to Nepra and other federal institutions in ending power cuts.

In response to the Sindh minister’s statement, the federal ministry’s spokesperson said the provincial government should keep in mind that electricity was neither produced free of cost nor could it be distributed free of charge.

He said the Sindh government was not providing any support to the distribution companies in fighting electricity theft, which was “a totally fair and legal requirement”.

He said load management was carried out by the Discos on the basis of the quantum of losses arising out of theft, without any consideration or prejudice with the area concerned, province, colour, ethnicity or nationality.

He said that electricity distribution companies of Peshawar, Hyderabad, Sukkur and Quetta were facing losses of more than 30 per cent and the Council of Common Interests had approved “revenue-based load management”. As such, the federal ministry had empowered the Discos to end loadshedding in areas where the consumers and local authorities cooperate in getting rid of theft and illegal connections.

The spokesperson was of the view that enough electricity was available in the national grid which could be provided to consumers living in the areas where theft had been eliminated. “Even today, we extend an invitation (to the provincial government) to help end power theft and get uninterrupted power supply.”

The people of Sindh could not be misled by the provincial minister who was “promoting electricity theft” on the one hand and issuing statements against the resultant load management on the other, he said.

He said that two senior officials of the province (of the level of commissioners) were members of the boards of directors of Hesco and Sepco, who enjoyed full powers to set load management policies and take decisions regarding implementation of such decisions.

The Nepra has already scheduled day-to-day public hearings over complaints of “unscheduled loadshedding and excessive billing” from July 21 to 24 for seven electricity distribution companies — the Discos of Hyderabad, Sukkur, Peshawar, Quetta, Lahore, Multan and tribal areas.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2020