Provinces agree to pay power dues

* CCI approves mechanism to deduct power sector payables of provinces directly from NFC Award effective from July 1 * Provinces, Centre will reconcile power sector arrears within 30 days * Finance Ministry to receive 25% of electricity charges in advance

ISLAMABAD: The federation and provinces have finally agreed in a meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) to deduct power sector payables of the provinces directly from the National Finance Commission (NFC) award. 
Meanwhile, provinces have shown willingness to restore the Executive Magistracy System. Reconciliation on pending dues is, however, still to be thrashed out between the Centre and provinces, it has been learnt. Under the broad mechanism agreed in the meeting, all the four provinces and the federal government will reconcile old power sector arrears within 30 days’ time, while a mechanism of at-source deduction of pending power dues of provinces will be effective all over the country from July. 
The meeting was held on Thursday with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the chair. All the provincial chief ministers, few federal ministers, all provincial chief secretaries and other officials were in attendance. Giving approval to the mechanism of at-source deduction of power sector payables of the provinces through the institution of federal adjuster, the CCI has allowed the Finance Ministry to receive 25 percent of electricity charges in advance, while the remaining dues will be deducted at source within 60 days.
Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar told the meeting that the process would come into effect from July 1, 2014 through the federal adjuster. The participants of the meeting also stressed the need to reconcile old dues. The meeting decided that the representatives of the provinces should sit together to sort out the issue of old dues within 30 days and its report should be presented in the next CCI meeting. 
Similarly, it was also agreed in the meeting that the provincial governments will forward their suggestions to the Centre regarding legislation about restoration of Executive Magistracy System within 15 days. Moreover, the provinces have assured that the staff of various departments transferred after the 18th Amendment will be absorbed and legislation will be done in this regard. Besides, the CCI also gave its approval to a draft of the Pakistan Energy Efficiency and Conservation (PEEC) Bill 2014 and for its tabling in the National Assembly. 
The PPEC would form a national policy on energy conservation and suggest measures for energy conservation. On the investigation of alleged corruption in the Kachi Canal project, the prime minister expressed displeasure with the Water and Power Ministry and directed the minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif to take serious action against all those responsible for delaying the inquiry, and also submit a report in the next meeting of the CCI. 
The prime minister ordered an inquiry by international auditors to fix responsibility. He also called for holding technical and financial audit of the scheme. The CCI also approved the amendments in Gwadar Port Authority Act. It was decided that the chairman of the Gwadar Port Authority would be a nominee of Balochistan chief minister. Regarding the matter of 50% membership of the Board of Governors of Gwadar Port Authority, it was decided that amendments would be made in the Act. The CCI has also given its approval to a draft amendment in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 in relation to the restoration of executive magistracy. 
The amendment would later be tabled in parliament for formal approval. The agenda of the sixth population census was deferred till the next meeting. Prime Minister Nawaz directed that the concerns raised by Balochistan chief minister should be discussed with the Balochistan government and report be submitted within two weeks. The CCI also approved the permanent absorption of federal employees transferred to provincial government after devolution through 18th Amendment. The meeting also decided to expedite the absorption process.
According to the press statement issued by the prime minister’s media office, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has briefed the CCI on public debt management and supervision policy. He told that in order to improve the debt management operation, the government has initiated a process of preparing a comprehensive medium-term debt strategy in consultation with all stakeholders. The strategy will facilitate in making strategic decisions for new borrowing, including the appropriate mix between domestic and external loans to finance the budget deficit, he added. The CCI also approved the permanent absorption of federal employees transferred to the provincial governments after devolution through 18th Amendment. 

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