A recent intelligence report has shed light on significant shortcomings in both the equipment and training of power distribution company (Disco) staff, hampering their ability to effectively combat the rampant issue of power theft in the country, the local English newspaper The News reported.
According to the report, this problem has led to substantial financial losses amounting to billions of rupees. The report also identified several critical deficiencies, including the widespread use of clip-on meters by all electricity supply companies, such as Lesco. These meters can measure amperage but lack the capability to detect electronic devices responsible for electricity theft within the meter itself.
Alarmingly, the report has uncovered the emergence of new software designed specifically for electricity theft. Many of these programs can remotely manipulate modern chips found within meters. It appears that individuals associated with power supply companies, either directly or indirectly, are complicit in the installation of these chips.
Private electricians and electrical engineers, according to the report, are involved in embedding these chips into meters, which are subsequently equipped with remote control. When there’s a risk of inspection by the electricity supply company, the thieves can reactivate the meters remotely, effectively evading detection and penalties.
CCTV cameras are now prevalent in most factories, industries, and outside residential properties, tracking the movements of inspection teams in the area. Additionally, many industries are alerted about raids by Disco staff themselves.
The report also reveals that the staff lacks the necessary training to identify hidden chips in the meters. Some meters installed by Discos are removed, and dummy meters with matching serial numbers are put in their place. These dummy meters are monitored every two to four days based on meter readings. Subsequently, they are replaced with the original meters, making it difficult for meter readers to detect the true electricity consumption. This results in significantly lower bills.
The report further states that excessive line losses are due to factors such as the excessive length of 11KV lines, faulty conductors, damaged transformers, overloading of transformers, and poor materials.
Power supply companies also lack an efficient system for transformer repairs, often relying on private workshops that lack proper maintenance facilities. Non-standard copper winding quality in transformers is identified as a major cause of losses.
In some Discos, the number of customers in subdivisions has far exceeded capacity, leading to severe staff shortages. Corruption persists through excessive charges levied on consumers for new connections, enabling staff to lead extravagant lifestyles, including sending their children to expensive private schools.
The report highlights exorbitant fees for changing three-phase industrial meters, a process that is not possible without the cooperation of company staff. Union officials, instead of advocating for staff protection and legitimate facilities, are embroiled in defending corruption, leaving employees reluctant to voice their legitimate demands.
The intelligence agency’s report underscores the urgent need for comprehensive reforms within power distribution companies to address equipment deficiencies, improve staff training, and combat widespread corruption, all of which contribute to significant losses in the power sector.