Home » Business » Prepaid Meters Row Costs Zesa U.S $20 Million

A long-running dispute between Zesa Holdings and the State Procurement Board (SPB) over prepaid meters is costing the power utility about $8 million in potential revenue every month, bringing to nearly $20 million the amount the firm could be losing monthly due to non-technical losses.

Non-technical losses occur as a result of unmetered energy, metering inaccuracies and power thefts.

Zesa has run out of prepaid meters and floated a tender for an additional 150 000 units to cater for new connections and fault meters, a process which might be completed in September basing on the standard lead times for meters.

As a stop-gap measure to cover for the period up to September, the power utility has repeatedly requested from the SPB permission to directly buy 30 000 meters from firms that have them at a cost of $2 million.

The firms -Solahart, Finmark and Nyamazela of South Africa – were contracted to install 500 000 meters and have completed their task.

SPB has told Zesa to wait for the floated tender, a situation which has seen some of the 30 000 new customers in need of the meters connecting themselves illegally on the power utility’s network with Zesa pocketing nothing.

Zesa is losing $10 million every month to power thefts orchestrated by some of its employees who clandestinely cancel mega-bills of electricity users still on the post-paid billing system in exchange for money.

The current feud has promoted the black market with contractors working in cahoots with Zesa employees to charge desperate customers between $300 and $500 to install the units.

More than 3 500 faulty meters are also not being replaced and it means no revenue for the power utility. The SPB rejected Zesa’s request in a letter recently written by its principal officer, Mr Cledwin Nyanhete, to Zimbabwe Electricity Distribution and Transmission Company managing director Engineer Julian Chinembiri.

“At its meeting No. 132015 held on April 16, 2015, noted that there was no basis for considering the direct purchase of 30 000 meters from the current contractors when there was a running tender for the same requirements closing within two weeks,” reads the letter.

“Accordingly, the State Procurement Board has, through PBR 0477 of April 16, resolved that the accounting officer’s request for direct purchase of prepaid meters be and is hereby rejected for lack of merit.”

Eng Chinembiri yesterday told The Herald that the feud with the SPB was frustrating their targets enshrined in the Zim-Asset.

The power utility, according to the Government economic blue- print, should install about 800 000 meters by 2018.

“We believe there are elements out there who are against these (Zim-Asset) targets because we made a genuine requisition which is being rejected,” he said.

“We only need the meters to cover us for the next four or so months because we are losing more than $8 million monthly because of suppressed demand from unconnected customers in both existing and new developments.

In addition, millions are being lost on faulty meters and at the end of the day, unscrupulous customers will connect themselves, which again leaves us with nothing.”

Zesa has installed more than 537 000 prepaid meters countrywide since 2011.

Meanwhile, the power utility says the excessive load shedding experienced countrywide is a result of instability on the Southern Africa regional power pool network and recurrent loss of generation at Hwange Power Station.

Zesa spokesperson Mr Fullard Gwasira yesterday told The Herald they had engaged the Southern African Power Pool, which had set up disturbance investigating committees to carry out mitigating works.

He said the worsening power crisis, especially in South Africa, had left utilities operating without a generation reserve margin.

“Zimbabwe is generally affected more than other power utilities in the Southern African Power Pool network as it is geographically at the centre of the regional system.

“As a result, almost all international power flows pass through Zimbabwe with the result that any disturbances in neighbouring utilities result in power swings on the Zimbabwean network,” he said.

Source : The Herald