In first-of-its-kind fraud in Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL), meter reading of some consumers was changed in the server, causing a loss of more than Rs 50 lakh to the corporation.
Employees of the corporation’s task force, which was constituted by the Patiala superintending engineer (SE) to check power theft, are in the dock for allegedly changing the meter reading of 20 select consumers.
Though the practice was on for the past one year, the SE tried to keep it under wraps and no action was taken against employees responsible for the fraud. The scam came to light 10 days ago after an email by an assistant engineer in the information technology department of the PSPCL to the SE.
“The corporation’s IT department found that meter reading of 20 consumers had been reversed using the password of sub-divisional officer Naveet Gupta, who was transferred to Nabha in January this year. Gupta gave the password to junior engineers and other staff, who changed the meter reading data online and took money from consumers,” said an official.
Corporation sources say select consumers of the Patiala north subdivision were asked not to deposit their bimonthly bills prepared on basis of actual readings by on-the-spot spot billing machines for a year and their connections were not disconnected. One of the task force members took Gupta’s password and changed the meter readings, less than recorded by the spot billing machines. Thereafter, the meters were shown burnt and were changed. There power bills of these consumers, which were in lakhs, were reduced to a few thousands.
“For example, a consumer of Yadavindra Colony did not pay his power bill since December 2014 when his meter reading was 21,979 units. His original bill showed he consumed 40,143 units in February 2016. Later, using the SDO’s password, the task force employees reversed the reading to 23,326 units, 16,817 units less than which he actually consumed, thus giving him a benefit of Rs 1.17 lakh,” revealed an official requesting anonymity. He said it was just tip of the iceberg and if probed, the fraud might run into crores of rupees. So far, 20 such cases have comes to fore, causing a loss of over Rs 50 lakh to the corporation.
When contacted, SE Bhupinder Sharma evaded queries. On why he didn’t report the matter to the PSPCL director or chairman-cum-managing director, he said: “I cannot say anything as of now as an inquiry has been initiated.”
Corporation’s CMD KD Chaudhry said he is not aware of the fraud. “If such a thing has happened, it’s a clear case of forgery and IT fraud. Erring employees and officials will be suspended,” said Chaudhry.