The Killid Group, November 15, 2014

Government fails to pay Breshna bills

Breshna is owed money by the interior affairs, and public health ministries; the state-run Mili Bus, Kabul University and French Medical Institute for Children (FMIC) in Kabul; and, offices of the governor, municipality and canal authority in Nangarhar

By Omed Zaheermal

Government fails to pay Breshna bills The new government has promised to solve the country’s chronic power shortage. But state electricity supplier Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat says it is owed millions of Afghanis by government offices.

Public entities and offices owe the company 9 million Afs (155,600 USD) of its nearly 12 million Afs (207,500 USD) outstanding receipts. Wahidullah Tawhidi, the spokesperson, says the rest is owed by either powerful individuals or moved to new homes without leaving forwarding addresses. The central and provincial government offices in Kabul, Nangarhar and elsewhere are among the biggest defaulters.

Breshna is owed money by the interior affairs, and public health ministries; the state-run Mili Bus, Kabul University and French Medical Institute for Children (FMIC) in Kabul; and, offices of the governor, municipality and canal authority in Nangarhar. “These amounts are outstanding in Breshna’s accounts since 2012. We will be forced to take legal action,” Tawhidi says. According to him, there no defaulters apart from these.

Yet Breshna’s Nangarhar office has shown documents and other evidence to prove that the power utility is owed 942,980,143 Afs (16.3 million USD) by different provincial government offices.

Mohibul Rahman Mohmand, in charge of Breshna in the province, says the offices have been informed, but no one has responded. “We have sent the list to Breshna, judiciary, the governor’s office, complaints commission of parliament but no office has promised to pay the loans,” he adds.

Biggest defaulter

Nangarhar Valley Development Authority (NVDA) is the biggest debtor, owing 560,072,330 Afs. (9.6 million USD)

Engineer Ziarat Gul Rahel, director of NVDA, is surprised at the amount. He claims he has frequently instructed his office to make the authority self-sufficient. “How has such a big consumption occurred,” he wonders. “Water pumps are the items that consume much electricity which would not be more than 20-25 million Afs (345,870 USD – 432,400 USD) in one year. Adding together all the sources of consumption the bill cannot mount to more than 30 million Afs (518,800 USD).”

He thinks Breshna has no moral ground to demand payment, and should instead be compensating NVDA for financial losses suffered due to power cuts. “As per a decision made in 1975 by the ministers' council, the canal authority should get 63.5 percent of electricity from Darunta micro hydro power (7 kms from Jalalabad). But this has not happened, and sometimes we have electricity, and sometimes we don’t”, Rahel explains.

Hard evidence

The central office of Breshna in Kabul did not share documents confirming the amounts owed by government and non-government organisations including the ministries of interior affairs and public health, and FMIC.

The construction department in the Ministry of Interior Affairs admits it owes Breshna money, but would not give Killid any papers to prove just how much. Meanwhile, Dr Kaneshka Baktash Turkistani, the spokesperson in the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) also accepts that there was 20 million Afs loan (345,870 USD), half of which has been paid. “The papers for the rest of the debt have been processed, and will be paid,” he says.

Breshna in Nangarhar has shared a list of defaulters. An amount of 19,730,186 Afs (341,200 USD) is due from the Nangarhar provincial hospital.

Our own tabulating of the amounts reveals the MoPH owes Breshna more than 20 million Afs (345,870 USD). But Dr Turkistani maintains the power utility’s calculations are incorrect. “Our outstanding amount is not more than 20 million Afs… Breshna should be exact,” he insists.

The Ministry of Higher Education says it owes 65 million Afs to Breshna (1.1 million USD); 15 million Afs (259,400 USD) has been already paid.

Faqeer, the head of administration in the education ministry, says the unpaid bills are from during the time of the Taleban government. “The Ministry of Finance gives us and other ministries only one million Afs (17,300 USD) for monthly expenses. We are trying to pay Breshna from other sources of money,” he says.

Mili Bus is on Breshna’s list of big defaulters but Ahmad Nazeer Ziayee who heads the public transport service, does not reveal the amount. He claims Mili Bus has already 3.2 million Afs (55,400 USD). “The amount currently outstanding to Breshna is not very big,” he insists. “Their claims are on what was spent 30 years ago when we ran electric buses.”

Substantial losses

The power utility has calculated that nearly 26 percent of its earnings in Kabul are wiped out by non-payment of bills and power theft. There has been a lot of resistance to Breshna’s introducing digital power metres. Consumers have complained of inflated bills, and refused to pay – adding to the company’s losses.

Breshna spokesman Tawhidi insists the utility has become “self-sufficient” for the last four years. Salaries are paid from Breshna’s earnings unlike in the past when the Ministry of Finance sanctioned a budget of 45 million USD for staff salaries. “We pay our staff from our own revenue of 400 million USD. We pay 280 million USD to countries that we import the electricity from. We have also extended the electricity network to Nangarhar, Paktia and Uruzgan provinces,” Tawhidi says.

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