Lack of a proper audit and the general inefficiency in the UT electricity department emerged as top issues at the public hearing on the tariff for 2015-16 held by the Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission (JERC for Goa and UTs) here on Wednesday.
The department has sought 10-15% hike in tariff, and the JERC decision is likely in a couple of weeks. At the hearing, the “rude behaviour” of the department staff was also a complaint, while streetlights staying on during the daytime came up too. “Public money is spent on these lights. Why should we pay for the inefficiency of the department?” remarked Purushottam Goyal, a trader from the Chandigarh Beopar Mandal.
The issue of two days between the department’s filing of the tariff petition (March 11), and the last date (March 13) for objections was also raised. Lawyer Ajay Jagga in his submission said that was why only “one third” of the people as compared to last year were present at the hearing. Many chairs were empty in the hall at the Institute of Engineers in Sector 19, and only around 100 people were present. The attendance, reports said, was around 200 the last time.
WHERE’S THE AUDIT?
Jagga also contended that there were two basis of statistics in the department’s tariff hike plea, rupees and power units, “and both are not trustworthy”. He underlined, as admitted by the department, that its accounts are not being maintained on commercial accounting principles; audit of accounts is not done; and energy audit is also not done. He noted that a CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) audit is referred to in the petition, “but there is no evidence or attachment for public scrutiny”.
Due to the absence of accounts based on commercial accounting principles, which is mandatory as per the JERC Tariff Regulations 2009, the JERC had rejected a tariff hike in the last two years as well. At present, accounts of all departments of the UT administration are audited collectively, whereas, as per JERC requirement, the power wing has to get its accounts audited separately.
STAFF CRUNCH, CHARGES
Gp Capt RC Goyal (retd) raised the issue of manpower shortage, as around 400 of the 1,400-odd posts remain vacant. UT Powermen Union general secretary Gopal Dutt Joshi later said the vacancies were actually over 600. He said they had been told upon raising the issue that “Kaam karne se koi marta nahi (No one dies of working).”
Many in attendance opposed the ‘service equipment charges’ too being levied “since at least 2007”. On the interest on consumer security deposits, there was suggestion that amount of deposit be mentioned on the bill every time, so that consumers can track the interest being paid to them. RRS Rathore of the Senior Citizens Welfare Forum submitted, “Fixed charges at Rs 20 per kW are proposed on connected load, which is actually based on self-declaration by consumers. This discourages people from speaking the truth, and is a punishment for honest ones.”
SD Bali, a senior citizen, remarked: “People have reached the moon, are cloning animals, and we are still not able to plug leakage of power!” He also called for a simpler bill with less jargon and acronyms. Jagga called for not levying power charges on crematoriums. “It would be a kind gesture by the department.”
ADDRESS GRIEVANCES: CHAIRMAN
In his concluding remarks, JERC chairman SK Chaturvedi said 70-80% of the submissions were grievances about the working of the department, so “there needs to be a mechanism for hearings before the tariff proposal is submitted”. He also said third-party audit was a modern practice that was required.
No politicians present
Even as power remains a hot political issue, there was no leaders or elected representative present at the hearing. Chandigarh Congress chief Pardeep Chhabra told HT, “We were not informed, else we would have prepare a memo and gone ... but in any case a hike is not required.”
City BJP chief Sanjay Tandon too said had he been informed he would have sent his party representatives.