KINGSTON – While the Jamaica Public Service Company Ltd (JPS) has been scratching its head trying to find ways to reduce or eliminate electricity theft, some of its own are also ripping off the company by their illegal action.
Countless claims have been made by residents of the Western St Andrew community of Riverton City, fewer from the adjoining Seaview Gardens, Phase One, and an even lower number from Duhaney Park, also in the constituency, of unscrupulous acts by contractors and employees of the JPS.
The general cry is that whenever JPS crews disable illegal electrical connections in some communities, and confiscate wires used to conduct electricity, some of the same members of the disconnection crews return later and sell residents the wires that were taken away.
Late last night, two residents from the Rockfort area, East Kingston, also said that they, too, had felt the stinging hands of the corrupt JPS disconnection crew.
“This is a regular thing a Riverton. Dem man dey wi just pull dung yu wire and right after dem and the police gone, jus’ come back inna the area and sell the people dem back the wire and dem even connect back the light fi a extra money,” said one resident of Riverton City, who had no problem being named or photographed, but whom the Jamaica Observer thought would be better off staying anonymous.
“Da thing ya is a big thing, yu know boss. Anytime you hear bout a disconnection inna Riverton, yu can bet seh the man dem a go come back and sell the people dem the same wire that dem tek down,” the man said.
The JPS confirmed yesterday that it had knowledge of the practice, but wants residents to come forward with information that can assist the company in prosecuting offenders.
“It’s not the first time that we have received such reports, but we would like some more specifics from the people who are affected,” the JPS’s Director of Communication Winsome Callum told the Sunday Observer.
“The company is aware of it and we have even dismissed contractors and employees who have been involved in such acts of corruption,”
A Duhaney Park woman told this newspaper that she had to pay $3,500 to obtain and reinstall lines that were earlier taken down by a JPS crew, accompanied by the police,
“Mi did need the light. Me caan do without it, because mi have young baby and mi need the fan and the fridge in particular,” she said, adding that getting regularised was not something that she can do now because she would not be able to afford it, based on how much she earns.
The sentiment was echoed by a young man in Seaview Gardens, Phase One, who said that he, too, had to pay to get back the apparatus, after his power was cut while he was at work. Leaving work early, he sought ways to get back the commodity, only to be approached by a man, whom other residents said was among a crew that had disconnected the electricity earlier, who offered to “set me up”.
“Mi gi him a change and him gi mi back the wire dem, but him never connect it back, because that a nuh nutten fi connect it. Mi jus’ get another youth to run the wire and mi all right again,” the man said.
The JPS revealed that electricity theft had caused the company to lose several millions of dollars over many years, something that had resulted in legitimate commercial and residential customers paying more to Jamaica’s lone electricity provider, to allow the organisation to recoup some of the losses.
Callum said that acts of corruption by any JPS representative would be met with stiff resistance by the company’s leadership.
“JPS will not tolerate corruption among our employees and contractors, and will take immediate action to dismiss persons found carrying out illegal activity. We therefore encourage members of the public to provide specific details when making reports, to facilitate full investigation,” she said.
“JPS gets reports from time to time about illegal activity among our employees and contractors. Up to this week, based on a report to our Customer Care Centre (1-888 CALL JPS) a contractor was pulled off duty after preliminary checks established reasonable suspicion of corruption. The contractor is alleged to have assisted in making a number of illegal connections in communities with RAMI (Residential Advanced Metering Infrastructure) systems. He has been suspended from any further duties until the investigation is completed,” Callum said, reinforcing the point that several employees and contractors had been dismissed for corruption in recent times.