Finance Department stops release of power charge arrears

With the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) failing to put in place a centralised system within the stipulated time for collecting power bills of government departments, the Finance Department is said to have stopped the release of power charge arrears worth Rs.240 crore due from various departments since January.

This was in addition to a substantial sum that was long overdue from the departments.

The average monthly power charge of the departments has been pegged at about Rs.80 crore.

Centralised system

The centralised system was planned from January onwards after the KSEB reported to the government about the mounting power charge arrears of various government departments.

According to the new system envisaged for streamlining the payments, the government ordered on December 26 that the power bill payment should be met from the budget allocation. The prevailing practice has department heads making of making allotments for power bill payment to their subordinate offices.

As per the new system, the board should submit a consolidated monthly or bimonthly bill specifying all details, including the amount and period of the claim. The department heads will then release the total payment.

The department heads should also ensure that no office coming under their purview was making direct payment to the board. The treasury officers too were directed not to honour power bills paid as per the old schedule from January 1.

But the KSEB Chairman on January 18 requested the government to extend this deadline till April 1 on the premise that a slew of preparatory measures have to be initiated for switching over to the new payment mode. This included mapping of the government departments against which each of the offices has to be attached.

The Finance Department granted the request on February 23 and extended the deadline till April 1.

Official sources told The Hindu here on Tuesday that the board was unable to honour the extended deadline and put in place the centralised system. This has forced the Finance Department to stop the release of the Rs.240 crore due for the past three months till introducing the new system.

In addition to the Rs.240 crore was the arrears running into crores of rupees that had been pending for long. The laxity in introducing the centralised system came to the fore at a time when the board was facing acute financial as well as power crisis, the sources said.