Power bills with hefty
arrears upset govt, farmers
TUESDAY, 29 NOVEMBER 2011: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government
and farmers have accumulated over Rs400 million arrears as
the Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco) charged their
tubewells less tariff over the last few years than the one
approved in February 2007.
A senior officer of the provincial government told Dawn on
Friday that the anomaly was detected by an internal audit
team of Pesco in December 2010 saying the Pesco had been
charging the agriculture and irrigation tube wells in Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa for a long period.
The official said Pesco had begun recovering the arrears by
adjusting them in monthly bills issued to the provincial
government departments and farmers to their misery. He said
the act had serious financial implications for the
departments and farmers alike.
The provincial irrigation department, according to one of
its superintendent engineers, own and operate over 350
irrigation tubewells and 606 tube wells installed as part of
salinity control and rehabilitation projects in Mardan and
Swabi. Besides, the provincial agriculture department, too,
has thousands of tubewells.
Similarly, there are more than 14,000 tube wells privately
owned by farmers in arid areas of the province. Many farmers
own tubewells in places not covered by the canal irrigation
system, including parts of Peshawar, Nowshera, Dir, Swat,
Bannu, Tank, Dera Ismail Khan, and Lakki Marwat districts.
Altaf Hussain, a Dir farmer, criticised Pesco over the move,
saying “sky has fallen on us after receiving power bills
with thousands of rupees worth of arrears.” He said he had
been asked to pay Rs35,000 arrears but he was unable to do
According to the officials, Pesco didn’t charge the tubewell
owners the new tariff ‘by mistake’ after its notification by
the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) on
February 24, 2007. Later, the provincial government
challenged the Nepra move in the Peshawar High Court, which
stayed the charging of the new tariff in September 2008.A
provincial finance manager said the Pesco’s ‘mistake of not
applying the new tariff from February 2007’ valued more than
Rs400 million, adding that the company had not yet
calculated the arrears of all 25 districts of the province.
He said initially, Pesco had shown Rs186 million under the
head.An official of the provincial Energy Monitoring Cell,
which is working closely with Pesco staff to reconcile the
provincial departments’ monthly electricity bills, said the
government had raised the issue with the Nepra.
He said the government’s complaint lodged with Nepra’s
Consumers Affairs Division in February 2009 was turned down
on technical grounds.
According to a KP government document seen by Dawn, Nepra
declared in its decision that “the Auditor’s interpretations
with respect to the application of Agriculture Tariff is in
accordance with the notified Terms & Conditions and hence
the Complainant’s request to refrain it (Pesco) from
applying Tariff D-1 (a) is not valid.”
According to the Nepra’s new tariff revised in February
2007, an EMC official said, the D-1 (a) tariff was
applicable to SCARP tube wells that involved less than 2- KW
He further said those consumers (farmers), who had
sanctioned electricity load up to 20 kilowatts, were liable
to be billed on ‘single-part KW per hour rate’ by applying
D-1 (a) tariff given in the Schedule of Tariff.
“Prior to the introduction of the new tariff, there used to
be two separate tariffs for the agriculture and irrigation
tube wells,” said the official, adding that the new tariff
was quite higher than the old ones.
The EMC official said the matter was discussed at the
highest level in the province following which the government
moved the Consumers Affairs Division of the Nepra yet again.
“We filed the review application because we feel the Nepra
should give us a full hearing as the tariff applied is
neither justified nor legally covered,” said the finance
The official said the power tariff meant for SCARP tube
wells couldn’t be applied to non-SCARP tube wells owned and
operated by the provincial irrigation and agriculture
departments. The tariff meant for SCARP tube wells was 50
percent higher than the one applied to non-SCARP tube wells,
The relevant official document says: “Instead of penalising
Pesco for not following Nepra’s repeated directives to
rectify the situation, the Authority rejected the KP
government’s complaints on technical grounds.”
The EMC official said the government had written to the
senior advisor/director, Consumers Affairs Division, Nepra,
saying, “the government as well as private consumers are not
in a position to bear the additional financial burden (on
arrears) nor has Pesco the right to recover these charges.”
Courtesy: The DAWN