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Govt seeks KP support to stem Rs188 billion power theft losses

By Israr Khan
April 20, 2024
This image shows a man repairing an electric connection. — APP/File
This image shows a man repairing an electric connection. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The federal government has called for support from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province to tackle the rampant issue of power theft, which has led to estimated losses and non-recoveries totaling Rs188 billion within the jurisdictions of the Peshawar Electric Supply Company (PESCO) and the Tribal Electric Supply Company (TESCO).

In a letter addressed to Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ali Amin Ganadapur on Friday, Federal Minister for Power Sardar Awais Ahmed Khan Leghari expressed urgency in addressing the issue of electricity theft and non-recoveries. Leghari requested a meeting with the Chief Minister to discuss collaborative measures to mitigate the problem, emphasizing the need for joint strategies to improve the situation.

Highlighting the dire financial implications, the letter stated, "These two organizations [PESCO and TESCO] are among the low-performing DISCOs which are contributing to ever-increasing circular debt. During the current financial year, a combined loss of Rs188 billion, which includes under-recovery and loss over NEPRA’s threshold, is anticipated in PESCO and TESCO."

The letter identified critical high-loss areas within PESCO, including D.I Khan, Bannu, Karak, Kohat, Shangla, and ex-FR regions, while pointing out the serious issues of non-recovery and non-metallization in former tribal areas under TESCO's jurisdiction. It projected a potential loss of Rs51 billion for TESCO in the current financial year.

Furthermore, the letter underscored the challenge posed by a weak government presence in TESCO's operational areas, exacerbating the problem of electricity theft. It warned that the sustainability of the power sector was in jeopardy due to significant revenue losses and resource drain.

To address the rampant theft and improve recovery rates, the government initiated a nationwide anti-theft campaign, contingent upon the cooperation of provincialauthorities. However, the letter lamented the lack of wholehearted support from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government. "In this regard, your specific interest is requested to ensure that the support of police is available in PESCO so that the anti-theft campaign is successfully implemented in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the menace of theft is rooted out," the letter urged.

The letter also underlined that there is a challenge of a weak writ of the government in the operational jurisdictions of TESCO. Proposing potential resolutions for TESCO's challenges, the minister suggested either comprehensive support from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government for recovery and meterization efforts or the provincial government's takeover of power supply in the TESCO region.

In a bid to address these issues, the Prime Minister recently formed a committee, chaired by the Minister for Defense, tasked with engaging the KP government and other stakeholders. The committee plans to commence deliberations soon and intends to visit the province to finalize a sustainable action plan.

In light of these developments, the letter requested the Chief Minister to indicate a convenient time for a meeting to comprehensively discuss joint strategies to tackle the situation.It is to be noted that on Thursday, Leghari highlighted the severe impact of inefficiencies in the power sector on the economy, attributing nearly half of its downturn to this issue.

He emphasized ongoing efforts to combat electricity theft and inefficiencies among power distribution company (DISCO) employees and warned of strict action, including dismissals, for those involved in theft.Financially, there are significant receivables in electricity bills and circular debt estimated at Rs2.4 to Rs2.5 trillion. —