It is indeed very inspiring to see that Guyana Power and Light (GPL) along with the Honorable Prime Minister Mr. Samuel Hind (who has ministerial jurisdiction over to the power company) are embarking on the Electricity Sector Reform (Amendment) Bill 2010. Electricity theft remains a major challenge for the power company as it strives desperately to reduce losses.
Already there are arguably strict penalties for persons who are caught stealing electricity. The last time I checked, I believe the fine for anyone caught stealing electricity is that of 50,000 Guyana dollars and a compulsory one-year jail term.
This to me is quite a frightening penalty to pay for illegal electricity. Some have even paid with their lives when electrocution fatally administered judgment on the careless culprit. Even the innocent suffered unsuspectingly if they came into contact with illegal wires. Some have even lost precious household items to fires caused by illegal connections.
What confuses me however is the fact that such harsh penalties exist for electricity theft and still this now cancerous problem remains prevalent in every corner of the Guyanese society. The light that ever so often conveniently shines on electricity theft would lead the public to believe that this problem is only prevalent in one section of society. That is not so! Electricity theft is ubiquitous.
GPL has set up a division to focus entirely on loss reduction. And while loss reduction embodies the reduction of both technical and nontechnical losses, more energy must be focused on eradicating the many ingenious forms of electricity theft that prevail.
GPL needs to deal severely with persons found stealing electricity in whatever form they find. GPL needs to make examples of those persons in the business community who steal electricity. Regardless of whether a person is a friend or a foe to the organization if they are caught stealing electricity they must face the full brunt of the law.
The amendments being made are good. It is heartening to see the power company working towards stricter legislation to combat electricity theft. However if the proper enforcement is not practiced, if the persons caught stealing power are not prosecuted accordingly, these amendments would be but an academic exercise.
Maybe the Honorable Prime Minister needs to set some specific targets for GPL to achieve with regard to the tangible reduction of electricity theft. This problem needs to be eliminated. I would appeal to GPL to ensure that those in charge of the Loss Reduction Division are properly qualified and are functioning efficiently and effectively in the fight against electricity theft. If proper enforcement does not accompany these new amendments things would remain as the saying goes: with Peter (the legitimate consumer) paying for Paul.