Parliament scolds govt for abandoning its debt owed to ZESA

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By Anna Chibamu

GOVERNMENT owes the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) millions of dollars in unpaid bills, a situation that has undermined the struggling parastatal’s capacity to pay for emergency power supplies.

This was revealed by the Energy and Power Development portfolio committee chair, Joel Gabuza during his presentation of the 2019 budget analysis report recently in parliament.

Gabuza said his committee had noted with concern government and other ZESA customers were heavily indebted to the firm to the tune of over a billion dollars.

This, he said, has resulted in the company failing to undertake critical maintenance work and developing capacity for both generation and transmission infrastructure.

Government’s departments and local authorities owe ZESA about $600 million.

Treasury last paid $155 million more than 12 months ago, leaving a giant debt outstanding.

In total, the firm is owed over a billion dollars by both commercial and domestic users.

“It is saddening to note that government has also contributed to the problems facing ZETDC (Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company) by failing to pay its bills.

“The committee therefore, recommends that in 2019, government takes a leadership role by paying up its electricity bills arrears.

“This situation undermines the parastatal’s capacity to pay for emergency power supplies, undertake critical maintenance and develop new capacity for both generation and transmission infrastructure,” Gabuza said.

Parliament implored government to allow ZESA to install prepaid meters on all electricity users irrespective of one’s social status in efforts to both improve revenue collection and instil discipline in the use of electricity.

Currently, power generated by existing power stations ranges from 1 000MW to 1 600MW.

This is against a national demand of 2 200MW, necessitating power imports to cover the deficit while load shading has also been used as an option in many instances.

Besides government entities, powerful individuals occupying government positions are said to be owing the power utility millions in unpaid bills.