Three power distributor entities suspended six of their officials and asked 273 others to explain why they made excessive power bills for some of their consumers for the months of March, April and May.
They said that the suspension decision came after it was primarily found that their officials were involved in intentional misreading of meters and using wrong computer inputs while preparing bills.
The power ministry called a press conference today (Sunday) to brief journalists about the findings of the taskforce it formed in June as allegations of excessive power bills became widespread.
‘Power distributors have taken actions against some of their employees for discrepancies in bills,’ power secretary Sultan Ahmed told New Age.
‘Some of the discrepancies were of the nature that called for immediate actions,’ he said.
He, however, refrained from giving a total number of power officials facing such actions until the press briefing.
He said that the overall number of excessive bills was one-tenth of one per cent of the overall power consumers.
The power distributors decided to issue their customers estimated bills in light of their power use in the corresponding months last year as the Coronavirus crisis prevented meter readers from visiting the consumer residences.
The country was under lockdown restrictions from March 26 which continued strictly through April. The government eased the restrictions in May 10, when meter readers started visiting houses.
Dhaka Electric Supply Company Limited managing director Kausar Ameer Ali said that they suspended two meter readers and ordered nine other employees, including a supervisor, to show causes why they used wrong meter readings and committed other anomalies.
‘Some of them showed wrong meter readings even in May when they billed after they read the meters,’ said Kausar.
The DESCO received close to 5,000 complaints of excessive power bills. This entity is responsible for supplying electricity to some one million consumers in the capital.
Dhaka Power Distribution Company Limited managing director Bikash Dewan confirmed four suspensions because of excessive billings.
He said that 35 others were served show-cause notices and the companies they outsourced from were also asked to terminate eight of their employees for being involved in intentional excessive billing.
‘There are officers against whom actions have been taken,’ said Bikash.
West Zone Power Distribution Company Ltd chief engineer Abu Hasan said that they asked 230 employees, from meter readers to executive engineers, to explain why there were excessive bills.
‘We know there are areas they could not go to read meters but still we wanted to know from them if there were other reasons [behind such billings],’ he said.
The WZPDCO received 541 complaints of excessive billings.
Rural Electrification Board chairman retired Major General Moin Uddin said that they were still preparing the list of actions to be taken against their officials.
The REB serves about 2.5 crore household consumers, the majority of the household consumers in Bangladesh.
Northern Electricity Supply Company managing director Zakiul Islam said that they suspended and instantly released some of their employees for excessive billings but would not give the number immediately.
Actions taken by the Power Development Board for excessive billings could not be immediately known.
Excessive billings came as huge shocks to many consumers in Dhaka as some of them received five times or even more than the usual power bills for March and April.
Many called their power bills ‘ghost bills’.
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