As public officials gathered in a number of settings to pat themselves on the back as part of National Public Service Day, one of the most senior secretaries to the government ruffled feathers at the Power Division with his story of being served “ghost bills” against the use of electricity at his residence.
Despite repeated complaints regarding his residence's ghost electricity bills, he did not get any remedy. Rather, the bills doubled at one stage.
Public Administration Secretary Mozzamel Haque Khan, one of a handful of senior secretaries, made the allegation on Sunday while addressing as special guest at a programme of the Power Division on the occasion of National Public Service Say 2017 at Biduyt Bhaban in the city.
Prime minister's Energy Adviser Dr Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury was chief guest at the function, reports UNB.
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Narrating his bitter experience, Mozammel Haque said: "I have an allegation to make to you Sir (Energy Advisor). I was living in government quarters where my monthly electricity consumption was billed at between Tk5000-6000 while other residents' bill was between Tk2000-3000."
Reckoning the bill to be excessive, Mozammel lodged a complaint, but he said no remedy was found. He went on to move out of government quarters and rent a private residence, where his electricity bill was between Tk2000-3000, which he found okay.
"Few days later I was allotted a large government quarter as a senior secretary. But my electricity consumption was same. Even I do not iron clothes at home to avoid extra electricity bill. Despite that my bill was about Tk6000," Mozammel continued.
Seeing this discrepancy, he called up an official of the electricity office (presumably one of the electricity supply firms like Desco).
"They suggested I suspend paying the bill for a month and told me that they were investigating the matter. So I did. But surprisingly, the next month's bill was Tk13,000," Mozammel relayed.
The senior secretary, rather mystifyingly for a man of his position, would seem to have been oblivious to the fact that while he may have suspended payment while whoever he called was "investigating" the matter, his electricity consumption continued unabated.
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If it continued at the same rate as before, with no "solution" found, it makes sense for his next bill to be approximately Tk13000, as suspending payment meant he now had arrears to clear.
But Mozammel milked the situation to play the victim, saying: "When an aggrieved consumer makes a complaint, he or she suffers further punishment. I would request the power officials not to penalise me by sending my next bill at Tk23000," he said jokingly, drawing attention of the officials.
The senior secretary may try humour, but in reality if he has continued “suspending” payment of the bills, provided his consumption remains unchanged and it is just one more month to be added, he would be sensible to expect a bill in the region of Tk19,000, including arrears.
Mozammel also served up the tired old trope that as a senior government official he is in a position to pay the bill. His real concern in relaying the slightly sketchy story he did, was for “others.”
Moving on, he said despite "huge improvement" in electricity generation, critics of the government continue to say that many areas in the country still experience power cut. He urged the Power Division officials to do more to stop this criticism.
Referring to the presentations by PDB, Desco, DPDC and REB on their activities related to digitalisation of power system and electricity billing, he said they have to pay more attention to service improvement.
When Dr Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury's turn came to speak, he responded to Mozammel's comments with a standard pledge to keep improving for the Power Division.