LAHORE: In a rare admission of mismanagement and fleecing of people by the power sector, the Prime Minister’s Inspection Commission has observed that distribution companies (Discos) have installed new meters which run at least 30-35 per cent faster than the old ones and that the companies can adjust their speed according to their needs.
In a letter — (1(3)/DISCO/S.M/PMIC, dated 22/10/14)) and titled ‘most immediate’ — to the heads of different distribution companies, the prime minister’s commission has warned chief executives of these companies against the issue and sought specific answers to pointed questions regarding the metering and overbilling issues bedevilling the sector.
Know more: Massive over-billing by power companies
“Your office must be well-conversant with the issues and unrest caused by overbilling and extra loadshedding by your company and employees under your control. In view of the situation, your department has done nothing so far but replacing old meters with new ones (during 2012-13) that run at least 30-35 per cent faster.”
“As observed, fast speed had been adjusted on demand of the company to increase revenue. It has also been learnt that major bulk of meters got defective after a few days (of operation) and give exorbitant readings than the standard speed. Observing the situation, the company adopted a strategy of replacing the defective meters with new ones and correct meters, but the situation has not been improved so far. Many defective meters found slower than standard had not been reported due to apparent reason that benefit goes to the consumers,” the letter says.
In view of the situation, the commission demanded immediate information (for further probe) on nine issues:
“How many old meters have been changed in your jurisdiction in the last two to three years? How much expenditures were incurred on the change of meters? Which companies had supplied these defective meters? Who reported defects in these meters; maintenance department or testing laboratory? How much fast speed noticed than the standard installed already? Who recommended the new meters being installed now? How much budget had been allocated in the last three years (year wise)? Which companies are supplying these meters? Name some testing labs capable to check the capacity of existing meters,” says the letter and directed the CEOs to furnish all required information through return fax.
“Everyone in the sector knows the issue, as well as its extent and depth,” says a former head of the Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco).
He said Lesco alone had replaced a little less than two million meters in the past two years, and its own record had proved the figures. Its August billing this year was a record figure of Rs27.33 billion — at least Rs5 billion higher than the amount collected in the previous month (July), he added.
The former head of Lesco is of the opinion that all these issues are matters of record and everyone in the Ministry of Water of Power knows about them. The Prime Minister Office has woken up to the situation only because of political situation. Otherwise, all ad hoc appointments in the sector are meant to keep them docile, use them to fleece people and artificially improve financial health of the situation. One hopes that the commission does not forget people’s plight once political pressure goes off the government and takes the matter to its logical conclusion, which should also include returning 35 per cent money back to people, he says.
Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2014