As power bill software collapses, questions over project to Spanco
The faulty billing software made by a private information technology (IT) company has not only meant trouble for consumers but also raised questions over the very awarding of the project by the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL).chandigarh Updated: Oct 03, 2012 12:23 IST
The faulty billing software made by a private information technology (IT) company has not only meant trouble for consumers but also raised questions over the very awarding of the project by the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL).
The Rs 350-crore project was awarded under re-tendering in June 2010 to Spanco, a Mumbai-based private firm that was initially rejected by the PSPCL's predecessor Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) on technical grounds. Larsen and Toubro (L&T) had emerged as the lowest bidder for the project, but the board had then called for the re-tenders for the project, which is sponsored by the Power Finance Corporation (PFC).
Several quarters, led by the PSEB Engineers' Association, have stressed that Spanco is just the system integrator and has no experience of handling billing-related software. In fact, the re-tendering was done immediately after Spanco informed the PFC that it had tied up with Accenture and thus had the needed know-how. After this, the PFC empanelled Spanco amongst eligible companies, but the re-tendering was done by the PSEB on its own after Spanco became eligible to apply, sources said.
But in February-March 2012, Accenture withdrew from the project citing non-payment of dues by Spanco.
The project was for providing online services to consumers in 47 towns having population more than 30,000 population, and was started in July 2010 with Patiala as the first beneficiary. It was subsequently extended to Mohali. But it is experiencing problems from the very beginning. The new billing system is causing revenue loss due to wrong billing and delays.
Now, murmurs of corruption are growing louder. "What was the need to call re-tenders, when another company had emerged as the lowest bidder?" asked an engineer, who refused to be named. "I briefed the top management several times that the system is set to collapse, but most of the managers are batting for Spanco."
PSPCL chairman-cum-managing director KD Chaudhary admitted that initially Spanco was rejected by the PSEB. "I can't say why re-tenders were called. The then PSEB chairman HS Brar can answer that question," said Chaudhary, who in fact was member of the committee that awarded the tender.
On his part, he said he had found Spanco's work faulty. "I have withheld their payment of Rs 100 crore. How can anyone accuse the management of favouring Spanco?"
HS Brar, the then PSEB chairman, remained unavailable for comment.
Chaudhary, however, added that the PSPCL would implement the project in other cities only after correcting the software.