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Electricity company: Govt bodies have not paid bills

Oct. 1, 2012 10:13 A.M. (Updated: Oct. 2, 2012 9:39 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Some Palestinian Authority government institutions have not paid their electricity bills for more than two years, the head of the indebted Jerusalem electricity company has revealed.

The company, which supplies power to Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Jericho, still owes its Israeli supplier around 300 million shekels ($76 million), Director-General Hisham al-Umari told Ma'an on Sunday.

The Israeli company has repeatedly postponed threats to cut power supplies.

Al-Umari said the Palestinian Authority government owes the company around 90 million shekels ($22 million).

"The PA transferred 20 million shekels in August, but in September nothing was transferred despite promises by the government to pay some money in September," he added.

Al-Umari said he had not heard anything new from Israel about punitive power cuts, but noted the Israeli supplier was considering other methods to exert pressure over their debt.

The Israeli company can refuse to expand the power supply if the Palestinian provider wants to connect new areas to its grid, he said.

It could also ration power supplies to the Jerusalem company, he said, highlighting that power demand usually increases in the coming winter months.

The third way to exert pressure on the electricity company is through legal procedures, al-Umari added, although he noted that it would take many years in court before the Israeli company could seize its assets.

The Palestinian Authority could make a serious contribution to end the electricity crisis if legal procedures are taken against the common practice of stealing electricity, he urged.

About 20 million worth power is stolen every month in the West Bank, al-Umari noted.

He also called on the government to reactivate a public certification system whereby a declaration that all outstanding bills were paid was necessary for obtaining government services such as a driving license, birth registration or travel documents.

This 'acquittance system' was only canceled "to satisfy some powerful people who do not pay electricity bills," he said.
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