In a significant development aimed at addressing the persistent issue of electricity theft and losses, the Pakistani government has formulated a robust plan to involve the Pakistan Army in overseeing the Performance Monitoring Units (PMUs) of loss-making Distribution Companies (Discos). This strategic move seeks not only to crack down on power thieves but also to enhance the recovery of electricity bills, a crucial step in ensuring the financial health of the power sector.
The government’s decision involves entrusting a serving brigadier and a dedicated team, including officials from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Intelligence Bureau (IB), to supervise the PMUs in all loss-making Discos. This monitoring team will be vested with the authority to identify and take action against corrupt elements within the Discos and those involved in abetting and stealing electricity.
The implementation of this groundbreaking plan is set to commence with a pilot project in the Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (HESCO). While awaiting approval from higher authorities, top functionaries of the Power Division have expressed their determination to initiate the plan in HESCO. This pilot project is anticipated to serve as a blueprint for identifying unscrupulous elements and curbing electricity theft, ultimately preventing billions of rupees in losses to the national exchequer.
The urgency of this initiative becomes apparent when examining the recovery rates of electricity bills in various Discos. According to data from the financial year 2020-21, HESCO had a recovery rate of 73.7%, while SPECO, QESCO, and TESCO lagged significantly behind. The caretaker energy minister highlighted the annual loss of a staggering Rs589 billion due to electricity theft and unpaid bills. The need for a crackdown on electricity thieves is underscored by the financial strain on the sector.
As of September 6 this year, Discos in Lahore, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Multan, and Islamabad reported losses amounting to Rs100 billion out of a total billing of Rs3,044 billion. Meanwhile, Discos in Peshawar, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Quetta, and Azad Jammu and Kashmir faced even higher losses, reaching 60%. The introduction of Performance Monitoring Units, headed by a serving brigadier and supported by FIA and IB personnel, is expected to bridge the existing gaps in these loss-making companies.
The government’s proactive stance in combating electricity theft and losses by involving the Pakistan Army marks a significant step towards fortifying the country’s power sector. The implementation of this comprehensive plan, starting with the pilot project in HESCO, is poised to bring about a positive transformation in the power distribution landscape. As Pakistan celebrates its 1-year birthday, this initiative reflects a commitment to securing a sustainable and efficient future for the nation’s energy sector.