1 May 2013

Samoa's EPC denies meter tampering scheme

4:48 pm on 1 May 2013

Samoa's Electric Power Corporation is denying there is a fradulent scheme involving the alleged tampering of cash power meters and the involvement of staff.

The Samoa Observer published an article stating the EPC had a revenue shortfall of millions of dollars, allegedly because of the scheme, which was recently detected and thought to have started after Cyclone Evan.

Sara Vui-Talitu has been following the story.

Samoa's opposition says not noticing an 11 million tala, or 5 million US dollar, shortfall in revenue means that EPC's systems need a complete overhaul.

A spokesman for the Tautua Samoa Party, Palusalue Faaopo II, says it's disappointing but someone needs to be held to account.

He says he is interested to know the outcome of the corporation's investigation.

"11 million is a huge huge money not being collected by EPC so the govt should look at it as to where the problem was and the reason why they weren't able to collect it. Its a lot of money, especially if some people were getting away without being charged this."

He says dating the problem back to the cyclone sounds like an 'excuse'.

They are making the cyclone an excuse. They shouldn't be blaming it on cyclone Evan. Its the EPC not doing their work properly to ensure all this money is collected.

When asked over the telephone if there was any fradulent scheme involving meter tampering, the General Manager of the EPC said the local newspaper got it wrong.

Tologata Lupematasila Tagaloatele Tuilaeali'ifano said their drop in revenue is just a transmission and distribution associated cost, where a 7 percent to 10 percent loss is usual.

And he said the lost revenue isn't something that just happened after the cyclone either.

He declined to comment further, saying a statement would be released on the matter shortly.

But our correspondent in Apia spoke to one Samoan family who say they were questioned by EPC staff about their meter, because of the huge drop in revenue.

The family, who didnt want to be named, said a faulty cash power meter the corporation gave them resulted in wrong readings.

Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia, says the family said they reported the fault months before cyclone evan hit, and can't be blamed.

It stopped sometimes after buying it from the EPC office at Vaitele, but the problem was they reported the matter several times to the EPC to come and have a look at the meter, but none of them came.

But he says the family are among other customers now fearing increased power bills.

Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia says the EPC does have a checkered history of alleged abuse of public assets in the past, including meter tampering, which resulted in some staff being suspended previously.