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LAHORE: The Ministry of Energy (Power Division) plans to introduce a ‘software’ that could automatically identify the wrong bill, reject it and generate the correct one with new payment due date.

The objective of the plan is to end or at least minimise chances of issuing wrong bills to the consumers. And if there is still a case of overbilling the consumers, it should be referred to the respective forum for initiating legal action, says a senior official in the ministry.

“On Oct 25 and 26, the ministry held progress review meetings of the power distribution companies. During meetings, which were attended by the senior officials of the Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco) and all Discos’ heads, the plan to introduce such a system was shared,” a senior officer of the power division told Dawn.

“Those dealing with the IT affairs were also assigned to submit a detailed proposal to the division within next 15 days,” he added. The product, according to the official, would help Discos issue correct bills based on genuine meter reading.

At present, in various Discos officials capture picture of the meter and share reading through a device. After having the pictures, the system generates the bills simply having no ability to identify that whether the picture of the meter is really of the place it shows. It causes immense problems as in many cases the consumers are issued wrong bills and forced to pay the excess bills or bribe the officials for correction of their bills.

“The product will have the capacity to first recognise the meter’s picture by matching it with the previous pictures showed on the bills of last three months or so. If the system clears the picture as genuine, the bills will pass through the further couple of filters. After the system finally gives the green signal, the bill will be issued,” the official explained.

“And those identified as not having genuine pictures, data etc, will be rejected by the system on its own. And at a later stage, it will issue/generate a new/correct bill with new due date once it finds the same having genuine image of the meter and reading,” he added.

The official said once the system rejects the wrong bill having image of the meter other than the genuine one, the respective head of the department would be intimated to find the official at fault. And if it proves that someone did it intentionally, his case would be referred to the relevant forum for taking legal proceedings against him. “So it has been decided in principle that there will be zero tolerance on this issue. And even if anyone succeeds in deceiving the system and proves to be involved in fleecing the consumers, his case would be dealt by Nepra which will soon be empowered to hear and decide such a case, order registration of FIR and get the guilty officials prosecuted under the law which entails three-year imprisonment or fine or both,” the official said.

The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Energy had approved a new clause in the Nepra Act that empowers the regulator to recommend award of imprisonment for three years or fine or both, refer the case to the LEA to register the case and book those involved in fleecing the consumers through wrong billing.

Published in Dawn, October 30th, 2017