ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Post has been unable to clear more than Rs40 billion in utility bills it has accumulated on behalf of electricity distribution companies (Discos), including K-Electric, and other public service agencies.

The power secretary has called an emergency meeting on Thursday of electricity distribution companies, representatives of the ministries of finance and communications, the Pakistan Post director general and others to address the challenge, given the fact that power companies had to resort to expensive bank borrowing despite government guarantees to clear liabilities of fuel suppliers and power producers.

In its notice to the relevant stakeholders, the Power Division said Discos had claimed that “post officers have been illegally retaining their electricity bill collection since July 2021 and not transferring the collected amount to them, resulting in huge cash shortfalls”.

It is worth noting that Pakistan Post works under the Ministry of Communications, headed by Murad Saeed, which topped the list of 10 best performing ministries issued last month.

On the other hand, Communications Secretary Zafar Hasan has confirmed the ministry’s payables worth Rs36.643bn to various utility agencies and appealed to the Ministry of Finance to intervene to clear its liabilities. The secretary explained that Pakistan Post had been providing services to other entities, including collection of utility bills, for a long time.

“Funds are collected on behalf of various companies and deposited in Central Account No.1 (Non-Food) and released to respective partners on release of funds by the Finance Division,” he said.

The process has been discontinued by the Ministry of Finance which is now releasing funds relating only to employees and operational expenses to Pakistan Post. “Resultantly, the amounts collected on behalf of partner organisations are not being cleared and their liabilities are increasing with every passing day,” the communications secretary said, adding that as of mid-February, Rs36.643bn liabilities had accrued and the companies were pressing hard for their clearance.

Mr Hasan asked Finance Secretary Hamed Yaqoob Shaikh to “release funds amounted to Rs36.643bn collected by Pakistan Post on behalf of companies and deposited in Account No.1 so that their liabilities could be cleared at the earliest”.

Data shows that a total amount of Rs35.34bn of 10 electricity companies is stuck up with Pakistan Post while over Rs4bn is payable to other agencies like gas companies (Rs2bn each of SSGCL and SNGPL) and water supply agencies of Karachi, Lahore, Gujranwala and Faisalabad.

The liabilities include Rs8.2bn of Multan Electric, Rs5.14bn of Lahore Electric, Rs4.9bn of Peshawar Electric, Rs4.1bn of K-Electric, Rs4bn of Gujranwala Electric, Rs3bn of Faisalabad Electric, Rs2.4bn of Hyderabad Electric, Rs2.1bn of Islamabad Electric, Rs900 million of Quetta Electric and Rs700m of Sukkur Electric.

“On February 10, the prime minister awarded certificates to the top 10 best performing ministries and the Ministry of Communications was ranked as the top performer and federal minister Murad Saeed was hailed for his leadership despite his young age,” said an official of the Power Division, which could not make it to the list of top 10 along with key divisions like establishment, interior and finance, to name a few.

The performance of the ministries was assessed on the basis of meeting targets set for them by the PM Office in agreements signed with them. The rationale behind these agreements was to address public issues and formulate more effective policy, driving a move towards improved governance.

A Pakistan Post official said the organisation had been expanding rapidly with plans to open over 100,000 franchises. He said the department had in a couple of weeks ago signed an agreement with the Punjab excise, taxation and narcotics control department to deliver number plates, smart cards and registration documents of vehicles on consumers’ doorsteps.

Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2022

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