ISLAMABAD: In a big blow to influential baboos getting jobs in different government institutions after their retirement, a crucial bill was passed by the Senate on Friday which reduced the experience criteria for chairman and members of Nepra from 15-20 years to 12 years and reduced the age limit from 65 to 60 years.

‘The Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power (Amendment) Act, 2017,’ which has already been passed by the National Assembly, was moved in the Upper House by Federal Minister for Water Division Awais Leghari.

The bill sailed through the House smoothly after the government did not oppose the crucial amendment moved by PPP Senator Salim Mandviwalla, who proposed that no bureaucrat above the age of 60 years should be made chairman or member of National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra).

Mandviwalla also proposed to set the experience criteria for a member or chairman as 12 years instead of 15-20 years, which was also accepted by the government. However, he withdrew some of his amendments after two major amendments were incorporated.

A major change in the proposed law deals with creation of an appellate tribunal under a retired high court judge to refer back Nepra decisions for reconsideration.

Under the existing law, Nepra decisions can only be challenged before a high court. The bill has made issuance of wrong electricity bill a criminal offence and empowered Nepra to hear, investigate and award punishment to the guilty officials and refer the case to the law enforcement agency concerned for registration of an FIR.

Under the new legislation, the consumers will not have to lodge their over-billing complaints to the sub-divisional officers, executive engineers or other senior officers in any power distribution company as Nepra alone will deal with such issues.

The Nepra will be liable to establish offices in all districts across the country where the consumers may submit their complaints in writing. Each complaint will be decided within a period of three months. Senator Mandviwalla also withdrew his amendments after the minister for Power Division said that establishment of offices at district level is need of the hour to resolve the over-billing issue.

The bill seeks establishment of an appellate tribunal which will be headed by a former judge of a high court and comprised members from the four provinces.

To assure its independence, the tribunal will have a separate fund and will be empowered to seek external expert opinions, be they national or international. For the sake of efficiency, the decisions of the tribunal would be time-bound.

However, to maintain regulatory independence, if an appeal is in relation to a tariff setting determination of Nepra, the appellate tribunal will be unable to substitute the determination of Nepra and will, instead, remand the matter back to the authority with guidelines.