A law of power and energy impunity?

Nafiul Alam Shupto | Published: 00:00, Aug 25,2019

Nafiul Alam Shupto

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WITH a view to 'quick disposal' of contracts in power and energy sector and to meet the demand for power and energy within a short time, on October 12, 2010, government first introduced the speedy supply law called Speedy Supply of Power and Energy (Special Provisions) Act 2010 for two years.

Its tenure was later extended by two more years until October 2014 and after that by four more years until October 2018. Recently the authority again decided to extend the tenure of the act until October 2021. Extending the tenure again and again since its inception leaves space to raise questions.

‘No question regarding the validity of any act done or purported to be done, any action taken or any order issued or direction given under this act shall be raised in any court’ — Section 9 of The act dictates.

Thus it clearly safeguards the actors and their action in the power and energy sector against prosecution keeping them above the law. The current political party in power introduced furnace and diesel oil based rental and quick rental power plant to tackle ‘emergency situation’ in power sector.

Meanwhile what was once introduced as temporary solution is now permanent. More importantly, to ensure that there is no public debate and criticism on government’s policy and activities in the energy sector, such provision in the act is kept.

Section 10 illustrates that ‘No suit or prosecution or any other legal proceeding shall lie against any officer or employee for anything which is in good faith done or purported to be done at the time of discharging his duties under this act or rules made and general or special order passed thereunder.’

The law not only prohibits any public scrutiny of energy sector initiatives and activities, but it also exempts the directors and officials of power companies from all possible damages and expense.

The act also empowers the government to avoid compliance with the Public Procurement Act 2006, which was introduced to ensure transparency in government procurement. Hence it will undermine the government's pledge to improve transparency and accountability.

The tenure of the law being extended has encouraged the government to be inclined more towards power trade with the private sector. The propensity of the government later outreached the national boundary to neighbour country’s private-sector power trade.

This only burdened citizens with an increase in electricity prices round after round. This also seems to have created a scope for the Bangladesh Power Board to show a tendency to pass the financial burden, mostly caused by private-sector projects under the law at hand, onto consumers.

It is alarming that the law has kept enough scope for corruption and made the government look for easy, expensive power, burdening people at large, letting some people, in the process, make money. As a result power generation in Bangladesh becomes lucrative business venture in many ways.

To put an end to the monopoly of the authority there is no option left other than repealing the act. Otherwise corruption in the power sector will go further and the culture of impunity will remain unchanged.

Nafiul Alam Shupto is a student of North South University.

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