Bureaucratic apathy is likely to stymie the introduction of a centralised system envisaged by the government for streamlining the Kerala State Electricity Board’s (KSEB) monthly energy charge collection from government departments, civic bodies and public sector undertakings.
In the wake of the board’s complaints about the mounting arrears, about Rs.1,500 crore, from various departments, local-self government institutions and public sector undertakings till December 31, the government had decided to introduce the centralised system making the heads of departments responsible for remitting the monthly bills as well as the arrears of the offices under their purview.
Official sources told The Hindu here that each department head was expected to furnish the details of the offices functioning under them. But a majority of the department heads had adopted a lackadaisical approach. Of the 130-odd departments, only 22 heads of departments had furnished the details. Public sector undertakings were yet to submit the information. The assistance offered by the Finance Department for launching the system by furnishing adequate information too was not forthcoming.
There were complaints that certain departments like Home and the Kerala Water Authority had been quite erratic in remitting the power bills on time. Snapping the connections would invite public wrath and the board had to desist from taking extreme steps, the sources said.
The uncertainty in switching over to the new system has affected the realisation of arrears amounting to Rs.1,500 crore as well as the monthly power bills to the tune of Rs.80 crore due from various departments since January. Though the system was expected to go on stream from January, the board sought time till April and since then no decisive step has been taken for putting it in place. After granting an extended tenure, the Finance Department stopped the payment of monthly power bill arrears for three months amounting to Rs.240 crore. This has come as a rude shock to the board which was already in the throes of a grave financial crisis.
This calls for urgent intervention at the highest level to persuade the authorities concerned to provide the details without delay. Going by the present pace, it may not crystallise even within the next one year, the sources said.