14 firms saved Rs 50m in energy bills by influencing NEA officials

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    KATHMANDU, May 12: A government probe has concluded that 14 firms along the Itahari-Biratnagar industrial corridor saved energy bills worth at least Rs 50 million over the past three months ending mid-April by influencing officials of five distribution centers of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) to provide them round the clock electricity even during load-shedding.

    The firms paid just Rs 6 for a unit of electricity. Power generated from generators would have cost them around Rs 25 per unit.

    “As the irregularity is of large scale, the investigation team has recommended that the government probe further in order to identify the NEA officials who unlawfully supplied electricity to private firms,” a member of the investigation team told Republica on Sunday.

    Ministry of Energy (MoE), which looks after NEA, had formed a five-member probe to look into the issue following widespread criticism.

    According to sources, owners of the firms ensured round the clock electricity to their production facilities by paying kickbacks to officials of different distribution centers of NEA. Those firms had managed to get uninterrupted power supply from NEA´s distribution centers in Itahari, Duhabi, Biratnagar, Dhankuta and Siraha.

    The team submitted its report to the ministry last week after conducting field study.

    “The probe team looked into electricity supply scheduled of the five distribution centers. We found that those distribution centers supplied electricity to the 14 firms going against the nationwide load-shedding schedule,” the member added.

    According to MoE officials, locals had complained about the issue last year as well. But their complaints were not entertained. “No one showed interest to look into the issue then,” an official at MoE said preferring not to be named.

    The firms that enjoyed round the clock power supply by influencing NEA officials are Raghupati Jute Mill, Baba Jute Mill, Maruti Cements and Asian Thai Food, among others.

    “Owners of 14 firms are found to have bribed officials at the distribution centers to ensure 24-hour power supply,” the probe committee member told Republica.

    The member said the firms saved Rs 19 per unit of electricity consumed in the three-month period.

    “Now, it is up to board of directors of the NEA to take actions against the perpetrators,” the member said.

    The investigation team led by Sundar Shyam Shrestha, deputy director general of the Department of Electricity Development (DoED), comprised three officials from the ministry and a representative from the NEA.

    Source : Republica