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LAHORE: As the Ministry of Energy (Power Division) plans to come up with a system to detect wrong billing and automatically rectify it, it may look for other options after the software available with the Power Information Technology Company, a subsidiary of the ministry, has been found inadequate to achieve the objective.

And even if it is upgraded to an extent of analysing reading with images of meters, it cannot detect the problem due to various kinds of digital, manual, convertible and non-convertible electricity meters installed at various premises, it is learnt.

The ministry during its meetings on Oct 25 and 26 with the heads of power distribution companies had revealed a plan to introduce a ‘software’ that could automatically identify the wrong bill and generate the correct one with new payment due date. The objective is to end or at least minimise the chances of issuing wrong bills to the consumers.

“If there is still a case of over-billing, it could be referred to the respective forum for initiating legal action,” says a senior official in the ministry.

A day before the back-to-back meetings, the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Energy approved inclusion of a new clause in the Nepra Act that empowered the regulator to recommend award of imprisonment for a period of three years or fine or both, refer the case to the respective law-enforcement agency to register the case and book those involved in fleecing the consumers through wrong billing.

“The software is already available with the PITC but it cannot be upgraded to do everything on its own. It cannot do so because there are many kinds of meters -- digital, manual, convertible and non-convertible etc. Among millions of meters, there are a huge number of manual ones whose images or reading cannot be judged by the existing software even after upgrade,” says an official.

“The system/software the PITC operates is not fully automatic and therefore inadequate to meet the challenge,” he says.

Asked about the possibility of introducing a new software to achieve the objective, the official said there was no such system that could do such kind of multitasking. “But the PITC is working out to at least add feature of comparing/analysing meter reading and images etc. After this the over-billing complaints will surely come down,” he says.

He says the software was introduced a couple of years ago and it has many features including the one of sending meter reading to the consumers through SMS, ensuring images of meters on bills, entering reading in the light of reports sent by the respective subdivision after verification etc. But it is not being implemented or followed by the distribution companies (Discos).

So the Discos are required to send mobile numbers of all the consumers, monitor the field officials concerned, check and verify the meter reading and mobile imaging reports and feed the same after necessary correction in the existing software, says the official.

Published in Dawn, November 11th, 2017