July 7, 2021 12:55:25 pm
The outstanding bills of Punjab government offices towards state power utility – Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) – have increased more than four times from Rs 524.78 crore (6,204 offices) in March 2016 under the SAD-BJP regime to Rs 2,183.49 crore (11,855 offices) in 2019-20 under the Congress dispensation.
A performance audit of the corporation has revealed that the share of government offices to the total defaulting amount has increased from 48.43 per cent to 53.11 per cent.
PSPCL failed to recover dues from even its own employees. The number of employees who defaulted on bill payment nearly doubled from 632 in 2015-16 to 1,240 in 2019-20.
The punitive action of disconnecting the power supply to government offices, which defaulted in bill payment, remained negligible. The percentage of disconnections ranged between 1.25 per cent in 2019-18 to 1.89 per cent in 2018-19.
The performance audit has been conducted between August 2020 to January 2021 and covers the performance of PSPCL pre and post-implementation of UDAY scheme during the period 2015-16 to 2019-20.
The audit has found that the Border Zone of PSPCL did not carry out even a single disconnection at government offices for defaulting on bill payment, while the West Zone carried out disconnections ranging from 48 per cent to 65 per cent during the period 2015-16 to 2017-18 and 2019-20. Action taken by the remaining three zones was also inadequate as the percentage of disconnections ranged from 0.58 per cent to 11.38 per cent during 2015-16 to 2019-20.
In May 2015, Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) had asked the power utility to explore the possibility of installing pre-paid meters on connections being released to government departments. The regulatory body had referred to the success story of Manipur, which had had good results after installing pre-paid meters. It had asked the PSPCL in July 2016 to prepare a roadmap for introduction of prepaid meters within a month.
However, the audit has found that even after lapse of five years, PSPCL failed to introduce prepaid meters for government department connections. The audit has found that the power utility was not taking mandatory steps to improve the recovery of defaulting amount.
Meanwhile, it has also been revealed in the audit that the number of PSPCL’s own employees who have defaulted on bill payment have nearly doubled between the 2015-16 to 2019-20 from 632 to 1240 and the defaulting amount has gone up from Rs 1,76 crore to Rs 4.66 crore.
The audit has observed that PSPCL has not maintained any record of electricity connections issued in the name of government employees. In the absence of records, defaulting amount against such employees could not be recovered.
The Chairman-cum-Managing Director of PSPCL, A Venu Prasad was not available for comments and did not respond to a text message.
Surrender of power and payment of fixed capacity charges
The audit has revealed that PSPCL had contracted whole installed capacity with the private power plants on the basis of maximum peak demand without taking into cognisance the seasonal load pattern. This resulted in surplus power with PSPCL, which had to be surrendered to the private power plants along with payment of fixed capacity charges amounting to Rs 6210.63 crore between 2015-16 to 2019-20.
The paddy season in Punjab during the four months of June, July, August and September result in higher demand as compared to other months of the year. It was noticed in the audit that the planning wing of PSPCL started assessing and circulating the month-wise power and energy availability vis a vis the requirement scenario only in February 2011 when the long term Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) for the whole of installed capacity of the private power producers had already been contracted.
Out of the total power surrendered during last five years, the share of three private power producers – Nabha Power limited, Talwandi Sabo Private Limited and GVK Power Limited – ranged between 50.74 per cent in 2017-18 to 71.92 per cent in 2019-20.
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