Power thefts cost Zesa US$10m

zesaicture4Lloyd Gumbo Senior Reporter—
Zesa Holdings could be losing more than US$10 million in potential revenue monthly due to electricity thefts by a syndicate involving its employees. It has also emerged that the power utility is producing electricity at a high cost of about 14 US cents per kilowatt hour due to inefficiencies that see thermal energy stations wasting coal, a major raw material in power generation.

Investigations by The Herald also established that more than 10 current and former Zesa employees are involved in the power thefts, although some of them have not yet been charged and are still at work.

Massive leaks of pre-paid meter units at the power utility and from firms contracted to supply the components have seen some electricity users using power for free.

Investigations by the power utility reveal that people at more than 4 000 properties in Harare, mainly in upmarket suburbs, tampered with prepaid meters, bypassing the Zesa system so that electricity is supplied for free.

Sources told The Herald last week that a cartel of Zesa employees was clandestinely cancelling mega-bills of electricity users still on the post-paid billing system in exchange for a few hundred US dollars.

After cancelling the bills, they then install pre-paid meters without Zesa’s knowledge.
For this, they are paid between US$300 and US$600 by electricity users who want their huge bills cancelled.

“Meter readers identify consumers who owe the utility thousands of dollars. They then negotiate with those people to supply them with meters and cancel the bills. The meter reader then gets a prepaid meter either from the Meter Testing Office, contractors or depot electricians.

“The same guy then connives with customer liaison data officers, mainly at Megawatt House in Harare, to register the meter and delete the outstanding debt that may be running into thousands of dollars. They then install the meter and bypass Zesa systems so that the client is not charged for electricity.

“This could have happened with companies as well. Officers in the customer liaison data department also convince electricity users with huge bills to pay them about US$500 so that they can delete the outstanding debt.

“We have meters that were not meant for Harare that were booked at the Zesa Test Meter Office but were clandestinely installed in some suburbs in Harare. That shows they were leaked from the Test Meter Office. The scam is as plain as that, but nothing is happening to the culprits.

“It is possible that Zesa may think it is still owed US$800 million nationally when in actually fact the figure has come down if investigations by the loss control and private investigators are anything to go by,” said a source.

Another source said efforts to charge the culprits were not progressing, in an unclear circumstances.
“The problem is that there is too much nepotism at Zesa. As a result, efforts to deal with these culprits are difficult for the loss control guys and private investigators. Some of these people are related to people in management so nothing is being done against them.

“In fact, there is resistance within the power utility itself. Management seems uncomfortable with these investigations. People who have been implicated are still at work and some of them even call themselves untouchables. This is a nationwide problem,” he said.

He went on: “These contractors (firms contracted to supply prepaid units) were given leeway to get into the Zesa system so they are able to do anything they want.

“Zesa is sitting on a time bomb because when these contracts lapse, former and current employees of contracted suppliers can go on to tamper with the Zesa system at will by connecting customers without them paying a cent to the utility.”

An insider said before the introduction of pre-paid meters, Zesa collected monthly revenues of about US$70 million, with a default rate of around 30 percent.

“But that has now come down to an average of US$50 million during the prepaid era. Under normal circumstances, revenue collection should be around US$80 million monthly considering that now there should be no default to talk about. There is also the 20 percent that electricity users who owed Zesa pay to liquidate their debt. So the power utility should be collecting more, but because of poor revenue collection mechanisms it is not.

“There is also a question around the utility’s credit policy on debts because how do you explain someone owing up to US$5 000? Under normal circumstances, the national debt should be nowhere near the US$800 million being talking about because electricity supply to defaulters is cut off before the bill gets too big,” said a source.

However, Zesa acting spokesperson Mr Shepherd Mandizvidza said their employees were not involved in any such scam.
“In the event that those people masquerading as Zesa employees engage in acts of fleecing customers for selfish personal gain, then the long arm of the law would take its course,” he said.

“The power utility has its own internal disciplinary systems and security measures to ensure that customer accounts are not manipulated and workers are discharging their duties in conformity with the expectations of the organisation”

Mr Mandizvidza said some electricity users who tampered with meters had been taken to court.
He said Zesa established a revenue protection department to ensure the integrity of its systems.

Inefficiencies at power stations are also costing Zesa
Recently, Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority chief executive officer, Engineer Gloria Magombo, said: “One of the key issues which came up is that obviously the average cost of supplying was coming up to about 14 US cents per kilowatt hour, which is way above the average 9,86 USc which we had given as a tariff. We looked at the processes right from production and we realised that there is a lot of inefficiencies within the processes so much that if you look at the power station, the way they are converting their coal to energy there is a lot of losses that are being incurred at that level.”

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  • Ti Fish

    See what happens when you don’t use a system that doesn’t work ? More and more trouble Step up your game

  • Aubrey

    Zvipiko Zesa will cry until kingdom come,before we dollarised they cried foul about paying internationally in USdollars then we dollarised the said now we are on course we can now pay our debts.But this figure is not changing yechikwereti!!,Now they are saying they were saying they are supposed to make more now that we are now on prepaid!Make more!!!my foot !! how do u make more now when i use prepaid and half the time there is no power power.Prepaid meter haifambe kana kusina magetsi full stop.You only get for the power that you have supplied me.And also you used to send us the same bill regardless of our consumption per month ie estimates!!saka dont expect to get more.No more estimated bills and most of us our bills accumulated because you were not charging us for what we had consumed but averages which was not fair.So i say to you Zesa if you dont supply power ie do your load shedding it means my units will never run out!!Is You eat what you kill!!
    You made a lot out of estimates FULL STOP!!!

  • Aubrey

    Its easy why not carry out door to door inspections too see if everything is in order regarding the connection of the prepaid meters ie checking if there is no tampering.

  • tauro

    why is ZESA not dealing with the inefficiencies of producing power? why should we pay 14 cents for inefficiencies? sort out the inefficiencies

  • Phato Sthole

    They say employees “delete” outstanding balances! For real or is the Herald just being alarmist? Could it be really that easy for a mere functional to perform a deletion in a billing system banking on the support of an uncle who is high up the perking order in the company should he/she be found out? I work in IT and even the most basic design methodology for a billing system wouldn’t be sooo easy to manipulate especially for an organisation such as ZESA which processes tens of millions of dollars every month. Granted the ZESA IT blokes may not be the brightest in class but ummm.. I think Mr. Reporter you need to recheck your facts as I simply cannot believe this to be true. There may be fraudulent acts going on there but maybe not quite the way you seek to explain them here because if there indeed are deleting balances just like that then whoever supplied that system must be investigated for connivance with the staff or the rot is much much bigger than we think as it would, under normal circumstances need people with much higher system priveledges to effect the cancellation and there can’t be more than maybe 2 people at each ZESA branch with that priveledge so this should be really easy to investigate and establish the truth. In any case, these processes would be under normal circumstance be logged and the audit trail leading up to the deletion stored somewhere. But then again, this is just the thinking of an outsider and I could be wrong but ZESA really need to be serious if they are losing money this way. It would be really unfair for me to be paying my bills and keep ZESA alive whilst my neighbour is enjoying “free” electricity. We need to stop this rot and this is much the same with the Police setting up roadblocks so that they can collect money for their own use.

  • Mafirakureva

    Before prepared meters u were charging estimated bills muchitibira mopanana maloan ekupenga. Why are u disputing the actual figures now. Mazimbavha hade kubirwawo nhai

  • Victoria Ruzvidzo

    I have requested for a pre paid meter to enable me to manage my bills but I am yet to get one. I owe Zesa about $2200 and have been paying at a rate of USD200 per month but the bill is not coming down because I was retrenched and my small business does not generate enough for me to consistently pay so sometimes I find myself unable to pay. My observation is that my bill is not consistent with my use of electricity. I switched off the geyser in summer but there was not reduction in the bill. In fact I realised that the bill went up after I cut off hot water. I do not heat water on my stove and infact use gas most of the time as there is load shedding when we prepare breakfast and dinner. During the day there is nobody at home except during school holidays. I am sure I speak for many when I say the ZESA bill is confusing and that sometimes the savings you try to make do not reflect in the bill. The idea of a prepaid meter in which 20% would go towards liquidating the existing bill would have a positive impact on ZESA’s ability to pay its import bills and would leave consumers happy to be in control of their bills.

    • Cashful

      ZESA has contracted a company called Solahart or Finmark to install prepaid meters as a result you can’t request a prepaid from ZESA unless your meter is either stuck or burnt,
      the other thing regulary ask your electrician to check if there is no “earth leakage”
      Yours truly Zesa employee

  • bk

    ZESA Zanu Electricity Sometimes Available makwikwi patown mbudzi iniodya payakasungirwa isu tiri kupondawo ko varikuwama ma$310000 pamwedzi vakanzi kudini ndo black empowermentka ko tisu vana vevhu zvakare varungu havana kuakwidza ndege kuwuya nawo ndeedu amuno

  • Gombiro

    Kana vana Cashbert vachita zvavanoda nesuwo toitawo .

  • Dzapiringana Chimhini Haipo

    That is easy to track. Prepaid systems come with a non buyers report which can pinpoint easily those not buying. Where the hell did ZESA buy this system from? We are helping neighbouring countries in revenue protection as Electrical Engineers from Zimbabwe and it boggles the mind that our country is in this [email protected]#$%t

  • Wilson Magaya

    At this rate it maybe wise to privatise ZESA. The pilferage is so ingrained in daily business operations to be taken out through purge – its systemic and not a system issue. We may be at a point where we need to question our model-the system of doing business. These parastatals were created for sanctions busting way back then and maybe the business model has outlived its usefulness. Lets put in place a system of doing things that will meet our current 21st century needs.