Samoa Power Meter Tampering May Cost EPC $4.7 Million

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Employees sent to investigate also allegedly promised ‘bonuses’

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, April 28, 2013) – Samoa’s Electric Power Corporation (EPC) is reported to be conducting an investigation into what has been described as a fraudulent scheme incurring a loss in revenue estimated at WST$11 million [US$4.7 million].

Reliable reports say when the loss was detected the investigation began and found that it started from when Cyclone Evans struck in later 2012.

The say cash power meter tampering has since been suspected as the main cause of the "significant loss" in revenue, and the investigation is focusing on those who have knowledge of the EPC’s metering network.

Employees who spoke to the Sunday Samoan have asked not to be named.

They say though that management became suspicious when there was a marked decrease in people buying cash power cards accompanied by a corresponding drop in incoming revenue.

It is understood that the investigation involves staff members being sent out to the villages where cash power meters are suspected of being tampered with, with the incentive that if they "collected WST$2 million [US$847,386]" by a certain period, they would be rewarded with "bonuses."

The reports did not say what the bonuses would be.

But the staff members who spoke to the Sunday Samoan said they were not convinced that bonuses would be paid.

"That’s just gibberish," one of them said.

Although the investigation was to target all villages of Upolu, the sources said "only the villages of Nofoali’i and Vaitele have been surveyed."

"For some reason they went straight there to check for meter tampering," one source said.

The Sunday Samoan was unable to get comments from management at press time yesterday.

An attempt to get a comment from a senior staffer was not successful. He said he could not comment.

"Only management can to speak to the media," he said.

Sources though say E.P.C. rules are clear that "those caught tampering with meters will have their supplies disconnected and fined WST$1,000 [US$423] over and above the reconnection fees."

They say staff who carry out the surveys impose the fines on those caught tampering with the meters but do not disconnect them.

"The full reconnection fee is to be paid before the power supply restored," they say.

"If a licensed electrician interferes with the meter, his/her license is canceled immediately."

[PIR editor's note: Radio New Zealand International reports that Samoa's Opposition party has denounced the late discovery of millions lost in revenues. Tautua Samoa spokesman Palusalue Faaopo II says someone must be held accountable for the losses, which also provide evidence that EPC's systems need a complete overhaul.]

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