GPL to hire private attorneys to prosecute current thieves
5,658 illegal connections removed last year, 420 arrested
By Rabindra Rooplall
Last year, Guyana Power Light (GPL) carried out 162 raids, which resulted in 5,658 illegal
connections being removed countrywide, while 420 persons were arrested for these illegal connections, statistics reveal.
Statistics further indicate that 289 domestic meters were found to be tampered with, and 271 meter bypasses were removed while 33 pre-paid meters bypass were also dismantled.
GPL officials confirmed that five per cent of these persons are second and third time offenders.
Approximately 30 per cent of the population is illegally connected and this has caused GPL commercial losses estimated at $2 billion annually.
Records reveal that 22 percent of the company’s losses are non-technical in nature and are largely as a result of electricity theft, faulty meters and deficiencies in the billing system.
According to Field Services Manager, Looknauth Singh, the power company will be hiring retired police prosecutors to represent GPL in court, since many cases of electricity theft are dismissed because of lack of prosecution.
He explained that some GPL operatives are in collusion with customers to defraud the power company by aiding and abetting in theft of electricity.
Adding that the power company will be going after sound systems that are being illegally connected to GPL supply, Singh said many persons who provide large sound systems at Bar-B-Que’s, weddings and other events are in the habit of attaching their heavy duty equipment directly to GPL supply without any permission or without paying a fee.
The Field Services Manager said that the power company will be making random checks at these events, especially in the nights, and if persons are found to be illegally connected, they will be arrested by the police and prosecuted.
He added that persons found guilty of illegal connections or meter tampering can be charged and placed before the courts. Before the entity or household could be reconnected the person would have to pay a reconnection fee, and a two-year backbilling penalty.
Singh further explained that no division in GPL, other than the loss reduction unit, has the authority to deal with illegal bypasses, breaking a meter seal and meter tampering. As such, other GPL employees should not be allowed to “bluff their way” into carrying out such an activity.
“Even meter readers cannot question anyone about his meter; they should just read and make a note if they see the meter is not spinning or if they suspect any illegality…And even if they have a badge persons can take their name and number, they can call GPL’s loss reduction office at 225-5251, 226-4058 and 231-0507 to verify if these persons are GPL operatives.”
According to the Electricity Sector Reform (Amendment) Act 2010, GPL can refuse to supply electricity to persons who have persistently violated the prohibitions against the illegal diversion of electricity and meter tampering and otherwise engaged in illegal conduct regarding electricity.
The Act further enhances penalties for the abstraction, waste, diversion, theft, consumption or other illegal use of electricity, meter tampering, illegal reconnection of electricity supply, and aiding, requesting or receiving payment to commit any illegal acts.
Moreover, in any residential premises where an offence has been discovered, every person over the age of 18 years occupying that particular residence at the time, shall be deemed guilty thereof and shall be liable to face the penalties provided for by the amendments.
These include; a fine of not less than $50,000 and not more than $100,000 for the conviction of a first offence. A second offence will see a fine of not less than $100,000 and not more than $500,000. A third or subsequent offence will see a mandatory imprisonment term of not less than six months and not more than one year, plus a fine of not less than $500,000 and not more than $1,000,000.