LESCO Next

As Pakistan continues to address its broken revenue streams, more and more dysfunctional departments are coming under the microscope.

First and foremost was the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). Its flawed voluntary return policies and amnesty schemes legalised tax evasion, while policies heralded for digitizing tax collection from MNCs – such as “Track and Trace” - were gutted at the last moment without public approval, presumably under industry lobbying efforts. Under pressure from the executive and in the spotlight for widening the tax net, FBR lashed out with a crude policy of blocking SIMs to force people into the net – that now has been halted by the Lahore High Court. The FBR has to do its job the right way, and it knows all eyes are on it.

Next in line is Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO). The governmentrun electric distribution company has been tasked with reducing electricity theft and increasing revenue accordingly. However, in predictable fashion, the company has chosen the shortcut rather than the proper solution.

LESCO has launched a public relations campaign where day after day it publishes impressive figures of “power-pilfers” that it has identified. How many of these are then charged with fines and criminal cases, and how many cases are prosecuted to the end remains unknown. Many have asked, if it can identify thieves so easily, why has it done nothing to prevent it so far, and why the problem still persists. These numbers are further under doubt when we consider that LESCO has been under investigation for overbilling its paying customers – often by astronomical amounts. Many customers reported that after reading their meters themselves they confronted LESCO, which then reduced their bills – and admission of conscious overbilling - but only up to the arbitrary choice of the official looking after the case. This problem has gotten so pervasive that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has launched several probes into the matter, even going so far as to investigate the assets held by individual LESCO officers, staff, their lifestyles, and monetary matters. 

Instead of cooperating, LESCO officers went on a month-long strike, which was ended only recently after assurance of no-raids by the FIA. These archaic institutions need to be straightened out one by one – PML-N must ensure this if it stands the chance at increasing sustainable revenue in the long term.

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