Home » Governance » No More Prepaid Meters On Houses

Zesa has, with immediate effect, stopped installing prepaid meters in houses and will now mount them on poles to curb tampering and power theft. This follows authorisation by the State Procurement Board that would, however, cost the power utility an extra US$16 million.

Most meter tampering, estimated to be costing Zesa at least US$10 million monthly in potential revenue, was being done on meters that are installed on houses. Mounting them on poles means consumers cannot access them.

The SPB has also given the power utility the green light to move prepaid meter contractors who were sitting on thousands of meters because of contractual complications into areas with a deficit.

Bickering between the two parties had stalled the installation of the meters on poles, with the SPB arguing that Zesa had varied the contract on pole mounting without its authority.

The power utility then applied for variation in August last year and the SPB said Zesa was failing to justify reasons for variation.

In a letter to Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company managing director Engineer Julian Chinembiri, SPB principal officer Mr Cledwin Nyanhete said the variation of the contract from ‘retrofit’ to pole mounting would cost US$16 776 073.

“The accounting officer’s request for variation of contract scope from retrofit to pole mounting under tender number ZETDC 072011 for design, supply, delivery and installation of STS-Compliant prepaid PLC wireless meters, be and is hereby granted subject to due diligence on costs by the accounting officer,” read the letter dated May 9.

The initial cost for installing the meter by four contractors was $58 million and the variation would push the total cost over $75 million.

The four initial suppliers were Solahart, Finmark, Nyamazela of South Africa and ZTE of China.

Zesa cancelled the ZTE tender for allegedly supplying ‘poor’ quality meters.

A Zesa source yesterday said putting away the meter from the customer would see their revenue increasing.

“These prepaid meters are called split meters meaning the measuring control unit (MCU) and the customer interface unit (CPU) are separated,” the source said.

“Now we are taking away the metering part and putting it to a place (the pole) that is not accessible. This was an oversight on our part as it should have been done in the first design.”

The source said anyone whose meter was installed on the house, if caught tampering would face severe penalties.

“People will continuing operating their CPUs for the purposes of topping up power,” said the source.

“If one is caught then Zesa would mount the meter on the pole and the culprit would pay the cost for that job in addition to a penalty that goes with his or her mischief.”

Installation of prepaid meters in Harare and western regions including Bulawayo had also been installed as the company contracted to install the meters, Solahart was failing to meet demand.

Two companies, Finmark and Nyamazela were contracted to cover other regions and finished installations, but could not move into areas with shortfalls because of procurement procedures.

Zesa’s application for variation of the contract was again granted by the SPB.

“The accounting’s request for partial variation of location of contractors from current lots to cover Lot A (Harare) and C (Bulawayo-Western) in order to complete outstanding contractual installations without increases in award quantities, be and hereby granted, subject to confirmation of exact quantities installed by each contractor,” Mr Nyanhete said.

“The accounting officer should submit a report on exact installations by each contractor for purposes of calculating administration fees for the direct awards on line with statutory instrument 159 of October 12, 2012.”

Sources said had it not been for bickering between the SPB and the power utility, installation of pre-paid meters would have been complete.

“We were still to install over 100 000 meters in Harare and the western regions and this could not happen but now we are moving ahead,” the source said.

“The Zim-Asset target base has 800 000 meters, but we have 500 000 prepaid meters meaning the other 300 000 are going to be smart meters.”

The smart units, being installed at a cost of more than $100 million, are also being introduced to curb tampering.

Source : The Herald