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‘Sky high electricity bills place media outlets in peril’

‘Sky high electricity bills place media outlets in peril’

Jul 23, 2019 - 19:38

KABULinfo-icon (Pajhwok): Inflated and imaginary electricity bills issued to media institutes by the Da Afghanistaninfo-icon Breshna Sherkat (DABS) shows the government’s slogans of support remain confined to words only.

According to Article 4 of the media law of Afghanistan, the government shall support and guarantee freedom of media and no individual or entity including the government can stop, boycott or censor media.

Electricity charges

Despite the law says that the government should support mass media and not limit its activities, electricity charges to media have almost been doubled compared to electricity charges to factories. This comes as many media outlets in recent years have either closed or partially gone inactive due to their economic problems.

According to information regarding electricity bills of Kabul consumers on DABS website, a kilowatt of electricity for commercial areas which also include media is accounted for 12.5 afghanis while the cost of the same amount of electricity to factories is 6.75 afghanis.

Prof. Wadir Safi, a lecturer of political science in Kabul University, also said 12.5 afghanis charge on a kilowatt electricity for media was brutal and said that media had no much money to pay high electricity bills.

“This is a type of injustice and double treatment, if this problem continues media activities would reduce and it would somehow open way for dictatorship,” he said.

Safi said media institutes should also work together like industrialists and stand against the injustice and reduce electricity charges.

However, Mohib Rahman Momand, former Kabul power utility director, had said that 12.5 afghanis charge kw/h had been fixed by the council of ministers.

Pajhwok Afghan News, which is an open and neutral news agency and spread awareness among the people about political, security, economic and other changes, has paid 884,000 afghanis in electricity bills in 1395 solar yearinfo-icon, more than 780,000 afghanis in 1396, more than 760,000 afghanis in 1397 consumed by its Kabul office in Taimani area.

A building in Rahman Mina area of Kabul which is part of Pajhwok Afghan News paid 425,000 afghanis in electricity bills in 1397 and 241,000 afghanis for only first two months of the ongoing 1398 solar year.

Imaginary reading of meters

The electricity bill of two months of Pajhwok’s Rahman Mina area is more than 241,000 afghanis despite the building is under construction and only a small water pump, a fridge and three shops are run on power compared to the agency’s office in Taimani area which runs 17 air conditioners, 40 fans, 60 desktop computers, 15 printers, two fridges, water pump and other things necessary and its bill for the same period amounted to 149,000 afghanis.

Ahmad Javid Habibzada, former managing director of Pajhwok Afghan News, said, “The bill we received for our Rahman Mina building for the last two months of 1396, around two years back, was around 200,000 afghanis, it was too much because only a few shops were active as well as lights of the building, a fridge and a water pump were in use, we thought that the meter officers had made mistake.”

He said Pajhwok had tried to find a solution to the problem through legal ways, but DABS after investigation issued another bill amounting to 335,000 afghanis.

He said Pajhwok followed the issue and DABS issued three different bills for the building after each investigation. The differences in bills show that meter officers write down bills without checking the meters, he added.

Wodir Safi, a political science teacher at Kabul University, said corruption prevailed in all departments of Afghanistan but the menace widely existed in the Bresha Shirkat.

A former DABS head said he had no information about Pajhwok’s building electricity bill in Rahman Men area but he would not rule negligence of meter readers.

We have 56,000 customers in Kabul City, it's impossible there would be no issue in this regard, but we have been in our citizens service and those who had complains or unhappy with their electricity bill so they could refer to us to solve their issue, at the earliest possible.

He said, “There was some issue regarding the meter checking officers around three years back but after some measures steps were taken and appointed new 60 meter officers and some of other changed and some were dismissed.”

He assured that the DABS have been already begun work on the digitization of electricity recording, in order to overcome this problem.

Pajhwok has shared its meter imaginary checking issue with Amanullah Ghalib, chief of DABS, he said might it could be a technical issue at the electricity tower and Pajhwok should handover its electricity tower which they had been purchased until the DABS officials take control of it.

Submission of electricity tower to the DABS

Danish Karokhail, Chif-in-Editor of Pajhwok Afghan News said Pajhwok said that based on the request of Breshna Shirkat built a power tower with the Transformer and its other accessories for the repair of the agency within five years, providing power to the media that serves the purpose of informing the people and it was the responsibility of the DABS.

 Pajhwok has installed an electricity tower for its own building in Rahman Mina and a transformer with 250 kilowatt worth $30,000.

The DABS has asked Pajhwok to handover its electricity tower along with others goods and documents.

Although, Pajhwok has purchased dozens items of fireproof clothing, handkerchiefs, 400 volt fuses, 400 volt carpets, 15,000 special carpets, 6kg fireproof balloons, 20,000 knockout switches worth more than 71,000 afghanis, but still the DABS was not willing to take the responsibility of the electricity tower.

Danish added that I had completed all the documents in accordance with the policy and procedures of DABS and I had promised them that the tower that i will hand over to the DABS and I will not claim of the tower and land in future and the it can be used by its feeders, but it is unfortunate that it does not surrender to DABS within one and a half years now.

According to the procedure of distribution of electricity to subscribers, an independent power tower is a power that distributing electricity that is provided by the customer himself and the responsibility to maintain and care for the customer himself as well.

Muhibruhman Mohmand, a former Kabul power head, said around 600 electricity towers have been existed in Kabul city that were created by private sector.

He said some of them were in the control of costumers and some others based on agreement with the DABS.

 He said in such case the DABS could take the responsibility of certain electricity tower in case to have all required documents.

DABS response

In response to Pajhwok complaint, DABS wrote: “Some media outlets are defaulters and they enjoy direct and indirect relations with people who do not pay their electricity bills, which negatively impacts the economy of the country so they should avoid such actions in order not to harm the national interest for their personal interest.”

Meanwhile, Pajhwok has five accounts with DABS and the agency cleared all electricity bills on June 26, 2019 and documents of the payment are also available.

Regarding DABS remarks that some media outlets enjoy relations with defaulters, Pajhwok has several times published numerous reports against powerful individuals who are refusing to pay electricity bills.

Some reports published by Pajhwok

  1. May 26, 2016, (Pajhwok): Around 3,000 families in Hotkhel locality of capital Kabul owe millions of afghanis to the power utility in unpaid electricity bills and some families have extended electricity to their homes illegally.
  2. August 08, 2017, (Pajhwok): More than 80 consumers of two power supply towers in capital Kabul owe 28 million afghanis in unpaid electricity bills while some used direct hooks illegally.
  3. June 26, 2019, (Pajhwok): Power utility Da Afghanistan BreshnaShirkat (DABS) on Wednesday disconnected electricity supply to 10 major defaulters including some high former and current government officials in Kabul.
  4. June 18, 2019, (Pajhwok): Power utility Da AfghanistanBreshnaShirkat (DABS) on Tuesday disconnected electricity to nine major defaulters including some high profile figures in Kabul.
  5. October 17, 2016, (Pajhwok): Civilians, half of government institutions and officials owe three billion and 300 millionsafghanis to Da AfghanistanBreshnaShirkat (DABS) in unpaid electricity bills, an official said on Monday.
  6. July 30, 2017, (Pajhwok): Da AfghanistanBreshnaSherkat (DABS) (power utility) on Sunday gave next 10 days to government departments and officials to clear their power bills amounting to seven billion afghanis or their names would be made public.







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