Published:  12:00 AM, 12 January 2017

Squarely dealing with power theft

A report published in this newspaper the other day says that Dhaka Power Distribution Company (DPDC) and Dhaka Electric Supply Company (DESCO) have become dens of corruption. A group of corrupt officials is embezzling crores of taka from the subscribers showing excuses of power shortage and restriction on use of gadgets like air conditioners. Some subscribers are also dishonest as they use electricity by corrupt means. Some of the new subscribers in Dhaka are using ACs illegally at their residences and trade centers. In exchange, the corrupt officials are getting money as extortion every month.

The government stopped giving new connections because of extreme crisis of power in 2008. In 2012, another ban was imposed on use of ACs for new subscribers. Frequent load-shedding in some sectors as well as essential services such as water supply, medicare, and telecommunications have increased corruption. A recent report says that, BPDB generated 14,150 MkWh of electricity, purchased another 450 MkWh from private sources, but billed for only 11,462 MkWh, showing a system loss of 22%. Theft of electricity at the rate of 14% is estimated to be 2,434 MkWh. Even if system loss is allowed at the rate of 8% the remaining 14% is believed to be theft. At an average tariff of Tk 2.10 kWh, the value of the theft would be Tk 5 billion. In Dhaka, public and private sectors jointly generated 15351 MW power in 2016 and the peak demand was 9036 MW on 30 June 2016, 800 MW more than the previous year. It is clear that no load-shedding was necessary. Yet, subscribers faced load-shedding even in winter. Procuring an electric connection from the BPDB or DESCO involves hassles, delays, and bribes. Corrupt officials take the plea to compel consumers to prefer bribery to harassment. The number of illegal electricity connections in Dhaka city is estimated to be 300,000. Theft also takes place by tampering distribution lines, bypassing meters, 'fixing' meters, and misusing free electricity supply.

Bangladesh is trying to be self-sufficient in power generation. Radical changes and drastic measures are essential to redress the situation. Proper investigation is necessary to trace and punish the corrupt officials. Electricity generation, transmission, and distribution are essential for the progress of a country. The government formed the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission in 2004 to regulate the gas, electricity, and petroleum products. But for reasons not adequately clear, common subscribers are not much benefited from its services. Officials should be employed rationally to ensure honest service. Intensive training programs for skill development of officials are necessary. The officials should be compelled to submit the declaration of their total money and other assets to the government. The dishonest consumers having illegal connections for stealing electricity should be brought to justice. Dhaka is the center of business and communication in Bangladesh. Uninterrupted power supply is essential to keep the wheel of development in moving.

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