The role of Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) supervising authorities, including the superintending engineer (SE), is under the scanner in the billing scam, wherein meter reading of some consumers was changed in the server, causing a loss of more than Rs 50 lakh to the corporation.
As per norms, the SE has to monitor the defaulters’ list and if the unpaid bill amount is over `1 lakh beyond a billing cycle, the power connected has to be snapped. But SE Bhupinder Sharma allegedly ignored it and no action was taken even after 18 months of the first bill default.
Sources say by suspending seven employees and ordering registration of a first information report (FIR) against them, the PSPCL authorities are trying to save top officials. At a meeting of the PSPCL management in Ludhiana recently, chairman-cum-managing director (CMD) KD Chaudhry blamed the supervising authorities for the scam. Director (distribution) KL Sharma told the meeting that he had brought the irregularities to the SE’s notice, but he “simply ignore them”.
Sharma questioned why the SE didn’t took action against the sub-divisional officer (SDO) and the executive engineer (XEN) concerned as they took no action against the defaulting consumers for years together and also changed the power meters showing them as damaged. “How an SDO alone can manage it all?” he questioned. Sources said the task force was formed by the SE to carry out checks in violation of norms. As per rules, no official less than the rank of assistant engineer can check any premises.
Sources said irregularities were detected in the release of tubewell connections in Barnala around sex months ago. Though, no direct involvement of the SE was detected in the scam, he was suspended for not performing his supervisory duties. But in the Patiala billing scam, which runs into lakhs of rupees, no independent inquiry has been ordered.
When contacted, SE Bhupinder Sharma said he was ready for any inquiry. He said he had already disbanded the task force. On being asked why no action was taken against defaulting consumers for more than 18 months, the SE passed buck on the SDO and XEN saying: “I am not responsible for their job”. He, however, admitted that power supply losses have gone up in his division.