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APCDCL incurred Rs 2.17-cr loss due to faulty billing: CAG

Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, April 28: Assam Power Distribution Company Limited (APDCL) incurred a loss of revenue of Rs 2.17 crore against power theft due to preparation of bills based on ‘average consumption’ instead of applying the formula prescribed under the AERC Regulations.
In its report on public sector undertakings (PSUs) for the year ended on March 31, 2017, CAG has found that the APDCL had to suffer a loss of revenue of Rs 2.17 crore by improper billing consumers against theft cases in contravention to the AERC Regulations.
AERC Regulations to interference with metering system and unmetered/theft of electricity inter alia say that when a power consumer indulges in the theft of electricity, the officer authorized on behalf of the government, without prejudice to its other rights, will assess the quantum of electricity loss. It will be assessed on consumption of detected category as per the relevant clause and connected load for a period of 12 months prior to the date of detection. The company shall bill the consumer at the rate of two times of the existing tariff, the CAG report said.
During their inspection on the premises of Shree Sanyaeeji Ispat Limited in July 2014, APSCL officials found the consumer drawing power by tampering the meter. The officials also noticed absence of display in the meter, broken seals and meter cover as well as cracks on the communication port of the meter, the CAG report said. 
In October 2014, the company served an assessment bill amounting to Rs 1.59 crore covering the period from March 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014. “Aggrieved by the assessment Bill, the consumer preferred an appeal before the Appellate Authority (AA) of the company in October 2014,” the report said, and added: “After hearing both the parties the AA confirmed the meter tampering event. The AA, however, directed the company to prepare an assessment bill for a period of 84 days from April 10, 2014 to July 4, 2014 on the average consumption for the succeeding five months.  Audit observed that the methodology suggested by the AA to prepare the assessment bill was contrary to the rates/formula prescribed under the relevant AERC clause. The company revised the assessment bill to Rs 0.22 crore as per the directions of AA and recovered the amount through monthly bills of the consumer. Audit observed that the assessment bill amount of the consumer for the period of 84 days as per the formula prescribed under AERC Regulations worked out to be Rs 1.75 crore. The company thus suffered a revenue loss of Rs 1.53 crore.”
In a similar case on the premises of Shiv Alloy Steel in August 2014, the officials of the company found the consumer drawing power by tampering the meter. The officials observed that the meter cover was not original and also noticed cracks on the body of the meter. The company accordingly served an assessment bill amounting to Rs 0.67 crore for a period of 18 months to the consumer. In October 2014, the consumer preferred an appeal before the AA that directed the company to revise the bill for the period of 288 days. Audit observed that the AA had not given any clear directions. The company, however, revised the assessment bill based on average consumption of four months. Audit observed that the methodology adopted to prepare the assessment bill was contrary to the rates/formula prescribed under the AERC regulations.    
Audit observed that in both the cases, the company prepared assessment bill based on the ‘average consumption’, which was not in line with the regulations/rules prescribed by AERC. The two cases involved tampering of meters, which is tantamount to theft and were willful acts on the part of the consumers. The company should have applied the provision given in AERC regulations. The company also did not approach the higher courts or the AERC for redressal of the financial loss caused due to the order of the AA. The fact, however, remained that the management accepted the verdict of the AA which was in contravention to the provisions of AERC without challenging the same before the appropriate authority, the CAG report said.

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Ankur Kalita