VIJAYAWADA: The arrears to be paid to the State power utilities by various government departments have mounted to a whopping Rs 10,800 crore by the end of May this year.
Even though the State government has accorded permission to deduct at source dues from the Panchayat Raj Department, which ranks top among departments that owe to the power utilities, the backlog in payments appears to grow, putting stress on the cash flow of the already beleaguered power distribution companies (Discoms) and underscoring the need to install prepaid meters as mandated by the Centre.
According to the latest fact sheet released by APTRANSCO, the government departments’ current consumption arrears, accumulated over the last five-six years, stood at Rs 11,034.60 crore at the beginning of May this year.
With a collection of Rs 234 crore from the government departments, the arrears came down to Rs 10,800.47 crore as of May 31, 2021, the report stated. Sources said some more arrears were recovered in June and July, but added that there is still a long way to go.
Panchayat Raj, Water Resources, MAUD account for most of dues
Major departments, which owe to Discoms include the Panchayat Raj and Rural Development, Water Resources and Municipal Administration and Urban Development. For the record, the government, in March this year, issued an order for deduction of electricity dues/bills of panchayats at the Finance Department level as a pre-condition for release of the second tranche under liquidity infusion scheme announced as part of Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.
In July, the Energy Department had accorded sanction for deducting Rs 344.9 crore at source of panchayat institutions. On Thursday, however, it issued an amended order revising the sanction to Rs 133 crore.
Incidentally, the Centre, which has asked the State government to replace all the existing meters in government departments, companies, urban local bodies and other government offices with prepaid/ smart meters, has once again asked all the Central government offices to switch to prepaid meters on a priority basis.
The Union Ministry of Power, in a statement on Thursday, said that the estimates obtained from the States suggest the outstanding government department dues to be Rs 48,664 crore at the end of FY 2020-21, “a value that is a colossal 9 per cent of the annual power sector turnover.” “Prepaid smart metering in all government departments will not only go a long way in ensuring the commitment of the government in bringing Discoms back on the path of financial sustainability and promotion of energy efficiency, but will also serve as a model for emulation by States for defining similar mechanisms that support prepayment of the electricity dues by their own departments,” it said.
The State government had issued an order in March this year, directing Discoms to switch to prepaid/smart meters in all the government departments by March, 2022. The Discoms were also directed to collect 2% of the cost of meters with power bills.