The city of Male’ could face its street lights being “switched off” should an outstanding MVR 3.9 million (US$ 254,569) electricity bill fail to be paid by December 27, Male’ City Council (MCC) Mayor ‘Maizan’ Ali Manik has said.
The outstanding payment owed to State Electricity Company Limited (STELCO) by the MCC threatens to leave all council owned properties and utilities –which includes street lights – without power, Manik today claimed (December 22).
Earlier this week, unpaid bills to telecommunication service provider Dhiraagu resulted in the MMC having its telephone and internet services disconnected by the company.
STELCO have since denied claims that they will cut the MCC’s power, but has stated that the company “cannot say what will happen if the bill remains unpaid”.
Speaking to Minivan News, Mayor Manik blamed the Finance Ministry for the lack of payment, claiming that the government body had failed to release the funds despite the MCC completing all relevant documents needed to do so.
“I sent a letter to the [Finance] Ministry last week following one the MCC received from STELCO saying they will cut our electricity if the bill is not paid.
“When I spoke with [Minister of Finance and Treasury] Abdulla Jihad yesterday, he gave me no reason as to why the payments had been delayed. He must have known about the bills because of all the letters we have sent him.
“He told me that both the STELCO and Dhiraagu bills will be paid tomorrow (December 23),” claimed Manik.
Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad and Economic Development Minister Ahmed Mohamed were not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.
MCC “long history” of debt
STELCO Media Co-ordinator Abdulla Nazir meanwhile said that MCC had a “long history” of outstanding payments, adding that the stated figure of MVR 3.9 million was only part of the overall debt owed to the company.
“STELCO has received no money so far. There are many months of outstanding debt from MCC, more than the MVR 3.9 million we have asked for.
“While we have received no statement or payment from the Finance Ministry, we have received a letter from MCC dated December 19. They said their bills have been sent to the Finance Ministry, and they have asked the ministry to settle the outstanding payments,” Nazir told Minivan News.
However, Nazir denied Manik’s claims that STELCO had warned the MCC it faced having electricity disconnected. However, in accordance to STELCO’s regulations, Nazir stated that any public or private organisation failing to pay its electricity bills was at risks of having its power cut off.
On Thursday (December 20), local media reported that Dhiraagu had disconnected all phone and internet services it provided to the MCC due to unpaid bills.
MCC member Ibrahim Shajau claimed that over MVR 400,000 (US$ 26,109) is owed by the council to Dhiraagu, alleging that the Finance Ministry had failed to release the funds.
“We have sent all relevant documents to Finance Ministry. It’s up to [them] to pay the money. Dhiraagu said that Finance Ministry had not paid the money,” he told Sun Online.
Dhiraagu Marketing and PR Ibrahim Imjad Jaleel told local media that the services were disconnected after advising the council on numerous occasions to pay their bills.
“We disconnected the services today after giving them time even today to pay the bills after the offices opened. We had to cut off our services after their failure to pay any amount after several days of discussions. We are trying with our customer even now, to find a way to resume the services,” he said.
Earlier in October, STELCO disconnected the power supply to state broadcasters Television Maldives (TVM), Voice of Maldives (VOM) as well Male’ City Council over a failure to pay overdue bills.
MCC member Ibrahim Shujau told newspaper Haveeru back in October that the delay in settling the bill was again down to the Finance Minsitry.
STELCO permit dispute
STELCO and MCC clashed earlier this month when the electricity company filed a case with the Civil Court requesting it invalidate MCC’s decision to disallow issuing permits to the company.
In a statement released Wednesday (December 12), the state electricity provider stated that the lawsuit was filed because the MCC had blocked the company from providing some of its services, resulting in disruption for customers in the capital.
The disallowed permits are needed to provide electrical services to properties around the capital.
STELCO has argued that the MCC’s decision lacked any legal grounds and therefore requested the court to decide if the decision was valid or not. It also requested the court invalidate a letter sent to STELCO by the MCC informing it of the decision, so that it could resume its services.