35 Punjab govt departments owe PSPCL Rs 1,120 crore in outstanding bills
The department has become a tool to be used for political gains. We had decided to disconnect supply to departments with unpaid bills, an official said.punjab Updated: Mar 23, 2018 15:59 IST
In a sign that successive state governments have let the finances of the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) go topsy-turvy for short-term political or populist gains, 35 of 44 government departments have ran up a pending bill of Rs 1,120 crore to the utility. Only nine departments have no outstanding. The state government has also ran up a subsidy bill of Rs 5,100 crore to the fund-starved PSPCL for free power supplied to the agriculture sector.
This has meant that the utility is scouting for a loan of around Rs 3,000 crore to clear its own dues and meet day-to-day expenses to avoid 18% surcharge on late payments
What makes things worse for the PSPCL is that the government continues to meddle in its functioning. It recently directed the utility to reconnect power to the water supply and sanitation department, the biggest bill defaulter at Rs 484 crore. Sources said the government directive to the PSPCL came last week, just ahead of the budget session of the assembly, to prevent the opposition from making any political capital. Disconnection to the water supply department would have led to problems for citizens as well.
Who owes what to the utility
On the list of defaulters are the local bodies department (Rs 200 crore), health and family welfare department (Rs 76 crore), industries and commerce department (Rs 76 crore) and PWD (Rs 55 crore). Even the office of general administration owes Rs 25 crore to the PSPCL. In terms of zones that the PSPCL operates in, the Border zone is the biggest defaulter at Rs 324 crore. The South zone has an outstanding of Rs 315 crore. The Western and Northern zones owe Rs 267 crore and Rs 153 crore, respectively. Government departments in the Central zone have ran up a bill of Rs 60 crore.
An officer, who is part of the management at PSPCL, said, on condition of anonymity, “The department has become a tool to be used for political gains. We had decided to disconnect supply to departments with unpaid bills. But the government intervened. The Punjab government also forced us to re-connect all tubewells. The PSPCL cannot function without money.” PSPCL director, finance, SC Arora said, “ We are making efforts to recover outstanding bills, which is continuous process. I have written to the heads of departments to clear dues.”