Power utility extends $120m smart-meter tender

Felex Share Senior Reporter
Zesa Holdings has extended a US$120 million tender for the supply and installation of smart meters by 35 days amid reports that the power utility had written to Energy and Power Development Minister Dr Samuel Undenge recommending that the units be reduced by at least 60 percent. The power utility tendered for 300 000 smart meters recently.

More than 300 companies have bought documents for the tender, which was supposed to close yesterday but was extended to February 24.

“Notice is hereby given to all prospective bidders that the closing date for the formal tender for the design, supply, delivery, installation and commissioning of Advanced Metering Infrastructure: Backened System, Smart Meters and Associated Equipment has been extended from January 20 to February 24, 2015 at 1000 hours respectively to provide adequate time for preparation of bids,” said the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company in a notice.

Sources yesterday said the power utility was forced to extend the date because prospective bidders complained that they had been given little time to prepare bids.

“We floated this tender towards the festive season and most companies complained that they had closed while others said they were heading towards the festive season and there was no time to prepare the bids,” a source said.

“Some of the companies, including those from Western and Asian regions, requested for an extension and we had to comply with that request to cater for everyone.”

The source said more than 300 companies had bought the tender documents but that only five would be shortlisted.

He, however, said Zesa management had written to Minister Undenge recommending that the units be reduced from 300 000 by at least 60 percent because the number of potential sites for the meters was small.

Reports indicate that former Energy and Power Development Minister Dzikamai Mavhaire and his deputy, Engineer Munacho Mutezo pushed Zesa to tender for 300 000 smart meters when there were only about 80 000 potential sites in the country where smart meters could be installed.

Claims are that the pair was angling to financially benefit from the deal.

“The tender has received great response and to date more than 300 companies have bought the tender documents and the number is likely to get bigger during the 35 days extension,” said the source.

“We have written to the Minister (Undenge) recommending that we reduce the quantities and do those that will make a business case. The touted 300 000 is a lot and we need to scale down to a realistic number which is based on business requirements and needs.”

Cde Mavhaire and Engineer Mutezo had argued that the number would cater for future connections, but engineers said technology was fast changing and smart metering technology would have changed in the next few months.

Some of the prospective companies (names supplied) had reportedly paid kickbacks to one of the ministers for them to get the tender.

The two Ministers quashed a resolution by the ZETDC board that the power utility first have a pilot project of 10 000 smart meters.

Expectations are that the smart metering technology, which reports to the centre any meter by-passing, would curb power theft and increase revenue generation.

All along, the power utility has been installing prepaid meters, with nearly 540 000 units having been installed since August 2012.

Smart meters have been rolled out in first world countries with most African countries still in the testing phase.

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