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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Crackdown on Power Theft and Overbilling in Pakistan

Amidst rising inflation and allegations of overbilling, Pakistan intensifies its crackdown on power theft and fraudulent practices, with the Interior Minister revealing concerning figures and promising to tackle systemic deficiencies through stringent enforcement and transparency measures.

Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi has unveiled alarming figures concerning overbilling in the power sector, vowing to intensify efforts to curb power theft, a practice exacerbating the nation’s economic woes amidst stubborn inflation.

Naqvi disclosed that both affluent and impoverished consumers fall victim to overbilling, with Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco) reportedly charging an additional 830 million units, reflecting systemic inefficiencies. Despite acknowledging exorbitant electricity tariffs, Naqvi assured stringent action against power thieves, particularly highlighting initiatives in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has emerged as a pivotal player in the battle against electricity theft, with Minister Naqvi commending its contributions in exposing overbilling practices.

The FIA’s nationwide crackdown has shed light on widespread malpractice, revealing discrepancies between actual bills and what consumers are charged, illustrating the urgency of rectifying systemic flaws. Despite facing immense pressure, Naqvi affirmed the government’s unwavering commitment to combating power theft and ensuring fair billing practices.

The HCCI’s Call for Action

Meanwhile, the Hyderabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (HCCI) has echoed concerns over overbilling, urging a thorough investigation into the practices of Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (HESCO), mirroring inquiries into Lesco.

The HCCI president, Adeel Siddiqui, lamented power shutdowns and inflated bills, calling for transparency and accountability within the power sector. Such demands underscore the broader societal impact of overbilling, prompting calls for decisive action at both regional and national levels.

Furthermore, the FIA’s crackdown on government offices owing electricity arrears highlights the widespread nature of the issue. Government entities, including the anti-corruption office and forensic laboratories, face disconnection due to outstanding bills, underscoring the urgency of addressing systemic challenges.

Director General Ahmad Ishaq Jahangir has emphasized the agency’s resolve in holding accountable those responsible for financial losses incurred through overbilling, signaling a concerted effort to restore public trust and financial integrity.

FIA’s Vigorous Pursuit

The FIA’s comprehensive investigations have yielded significant findings, with thousands of meters examined, revealing numerous instances of overbilling across various regions. From Lahore to Peshawar, overbilling cases have been identified, prompting swift action and legal proceedings against offenders.

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Director General Jahangir has reiterated the agency’s commitment to pursuing justice and safeguarding public interests, ensuring that perpetrators face the full force of the law. As the crackdown continues, the government remains steadfast in its mission to rectify systemic deficiencies and restore accountability within the power sector, signaling a renewed commitment to economic stability and consumer protection.