Energy regulators may come under control of cabinet division

Due to immense pressure from multilateral donors and provinces, the federal government is considering placing energy regulators under the control of the cabinet division again to restore their independence.

Previously the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had instructed to put regulators under administrative control of the concerned ministers, a decision set aside by the courts. Various donors including the World Bank have also written letters against this decision, stating that it would hurt the autonomy of the regulators.

The cabinet meeting scheduled for Wednesday will take up this matter of transferring energy regulators – Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) and National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) – under the control of the cabinet division again; setting aside the prime minister’s directive following pressure from provinces and multilateral donors, the official said.

The World Bank had voiced its opposition to the decision of putting Nepra under the control of the power ministry which would be damaging to its autonomy and credibility.

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In the last few years, multilateral donors have stressed the government to ensure that autonomy of the regulators is protected. The official also mentioned that it was a conflict of interest to place energy regulators under concerned ministries.

The official further stated that the provinces had recorded a protest over placing the regulators under authority of concerned ministries and urged them be placed under the control of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) ministry.

In spite of the courts setting aside the prime minister’s directive, the federal government reversed its earlier decision and a summary was moved by the cabinet division to the cabinet to transfer control of energy regulators under it again.

These regulators had been placed under the Cabinet Division by various governments in the past in a bid to ensure their independence in decision-making. However, the previous Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government, during its tenure from 2008 to 2013, also tried to transfer control of the regulators but could not succeed.

As per experts the current government’s move was specifically earmarked at the energy regulators – Nepra and Ogra – that have constantly refused to implement the policy guidelines designed by the government to burden honest consumers that have been paying their energy bills regularly.

 

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