Energy Minister Pun downplays corruption charges against utility chief GhisingMinister Pun’s statement follows charges by lawmakers last week that power utility chief Ghising had been involved in suspicious transactions and corruption
Energy Minister Barsha Man Pun downplayed the accusations of financial misappropriation levelled against Nepal Electricity Authority Managing Director Kulman Ghising by some ruling party lawmakers.
“We have seen many misleading reports in the media, but there has been no financial misappropriation at the power utility as it has been regularly billing and collecting charges from industries for the electricity supplied to them,” said Minister Pun. “If any industry is found to have received power using trunk lines in violation of provisions in the past and has not paid its dues yet, we will collect the outstanding amount from it.”
According to Pun, the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation will also conduct an investigation, seek clarifications and punish former office bearers of the state-owned power utility if they are found to have been involved in providing power illegally to the industries.
Minister Pun’s statement follows charges by lawmakers during a stormy meeting of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee last week that power utility chief Ghising had been involved in suspicious transactions and corruption.
The House panel had called the electricity authority’s managing director, secretary of the Energy Ministry and other officials and grilled them about the recent dispute between the power utility and industrialists over unpaid electricity bills.
An anonymous senior official close to the ministry said that the accusations against Ghising were part of a plot to defame the power utility chief and force him out from the Nepal Electricity Authority.
“Ghising has been blamed for the results of decisions made by his predecessors,” the official said. “This is all because he has not acted in line with the interests of some powerful leaders and has tried to recoup the financial losses caused by former utility officials.”
Defending the charges levelled against him, Ghising said that former officials of the utility had been supplying power illegally to the industrialists when the country was suffering from severe load-shedding a long time before he took office.
“It is not true that we did not bill the industries for the past three-four years like some media reports said. We have billed them and they have been paying their bills regularly,” said Ghising. “The issue is about collecting dues from those industries that consumed or were supplied power illegally through trunk lines while the general public faced long power outages.”
Speaking to reporters at a recent interaction in his office, Ghising said, “In some instances, the former heads also bypassed legal requirements to unilaterally approve supplying power to industries through dedicated feeders and trunk lines without forwarding their applications to the board.”
As per the provisions of the billing bylaws, any industry that wishes to obtain electricity through trunk lines for 20 hours or longer will have to pay the charges applicable to dedicated feeder users. Such industries must get the approval of the utility’s board of directors, and they cannot get electricity through trunk lines for a period longer than the load-shedding hours.
“Any industry found to have used electricity for more than the permitted hours as per the load-shedding schedule will be charged under the Electricity Theft Control Act 2002, and it will be required to pay regular premium rates and compensation charges for the unauthorised use of electricity,” state the bylaws.
A row between industrialists and electricity officials intensified after the power utility sent them bills in line with its internal committee’s assessment that the industries supplied by dedicated feeders and trunk lines owed Rs4.3 billion in energy charges as per its billing provisions.
The industrialists accused the electricity authority of illegally charging them and said the charges set by the authority were ‘unacceptable’. The power utility and Energy Ministry officials are preparing a detailed report of the electricity consumed by each of the industries in question.
“We will complete the report within a month and also investigate former officials who were involved,” said Minister Pun on Tuesday.
A complaint has been filed at the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority seeking investigation against former electricity authority officials for abusing power, colluding with industrialists and engaging in massive misappropriation of funds.
The applicant charged that the officials supplied electricity to industries while imposing 16 hours of load-shedding on the general public, and demanded a probe against former managing director Mukesh Kafle of the Nepal Electricity Authority, deputy director Sher Singh Bhat, chief of the Load Dispatch Centre Bhuwan Kumar Chettri and other officials.
“The officials were involved in massive financial misappropriation as they had asked the industries to file an application requesting supply of electricity and approved their applications unilaterally without forwarding them to the electricity authority board in line with legal provisions,” the applicant said. In response, the anti-graft body has sought an investigation report from the power utility.