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Inflated Pesco bills: KP pleas fall on deaf ears

August 10, 2012

PESHAWAR, Aug 10: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s requests to the water and power ministry to stop Peshawar Electric Supply Company from sending ‘excess bills’ to the provincial departments remained unheeded as the problem persisted, according to officials.

A senior official told Dawn on Friday that a detailed written presentation sent by the provincial government to the ministry last year about the excess and wrong billing by Pesco went without eliciting a reply from the relevant quarters, leaving the problem lingering at the cost of the provincial public exchequer.

“Federal authorities always take sides with the power distribution companies paying no attention to our complaints vis-à-vis overcharging and manipulative billing by Water and Power Development Authority,” said a senior government official, requesting anonymity.

He said the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had more than once substantiated its stand against Pesco by providing proofs to the federal authorities concerned about wrong and inflated billing by Pesco, but to no avail.

“A major chunk of dues always shown by distribution companies contain baseless, excess, and wrong billing and, instead of, setting their own houses in order to bring improvement in the system/performance they always try to penalize their consumers (provincial governments) by debiting wrong claims and applying wrong tariffs,” according to the official letter of the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that was sent to the federal ministry of water and power last year.

The provincial government, said one of its officials, was waiting to hear something about its presentation to the ministry, but no one had responded even a year after the provincial finance department dispatched the written request, titled as “Most Important.”

He said the energy monitoring cell had also forwarded to the federal ministry a long list of anomalies that local Pesco staff committed in monthly electricity bills to overcharge the provincial line departments and their attached wings, district governments and their entities, and agriculture sector tube-wells.

“We have recovered over Rs1 billion from Pesco since 2002 after proving that it overcharged the provincial government,” the official said, adding that another amount of around Rs2 billion was pending payable against Pesco and needed to be adjusted.

According to him, the official letter sent last year mentioned that Pesco been charging ‘unlawfully’ and ‘unjustifiably’ for the last twenty years the ‘fix and fixture charges’ to the streetlights operated by district governments.

Similarly, it brought up the issue of ‘fictitious billing’ against the permanently disconnected connections and the matter of incorrectly applying inflated tariff to the agriculture sector tube-wells to the disadvantage of thousands of growers in the past.

The provincial government, said the official, had also requested the federal ministry for helping it to recover escalation charge on pending deposit works pending payable against the distribution companied for years.

“Problems with the distribution companies is that they always clamor for payment of receivables containing disputed bills but they do not respond to the genuine complaints of the provincial government to withdraw the excess/wrong billing and apply appropriate tariffs to expedite approval and posting of agreed credit,” according to the official document.

Officials said the provincial government’s energies were being wasted as it had to put in place a large set up to constantly reconcile monthly power bills, keeping an eye on excess billing by Pesco.

While the energy monitoring cell, said its officials, reconciled the previous years’ bills to clear the electricity dues, it was burdened every month to go through a huge number of electricity bills to avoid payment of excess charges to Pesco.The provincial government, said the official, had requested the water and power ministry to introduce a workable system in power distribution companies to redress the provincial governments’ grievances, avoiding complications caused by anomalies in the monthly electricity bills.

The federal government, said a finance department official, had also been reminded that Pesco wrongly reflected Rs18.6 billion as arrears against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa even though the matter was resolved long ago.

“The arrears should have been set aside after the matter was settled by the federal government in 2010, but Pesco shows the amount against the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government every month in a blatant violation of an agreement between the federal government and the provincial government,” said the official.