RANGOON — The electricity provider in Burma’s biggest city has warned factories against tampering with their meters, after an inspection revealed that an ice factory had done so.
According to Maung Maung Latt, the vice president of the Yangon Electricity Supply Board (YESB), the public provider of power in the former capital, said a number of factories producing ice in Hlaing Township were inspected last week.
One factory, which he declined to name, was fined 81 million kyat, about US$81,000, after an inspection last week found that a digital electricity meter had been bypassed in order for the factory to avoid paying for power, he said.
One member of YESB staff was involved in the tampering, but had absconded when the factory was inspected, he said.
Maung Maung Latt told The Irrawaddy that the board’s suspicions were raised when ice in Hlaing Township was far cheaper than elsewhere in Rangoon.
“We just noticed that the ice price for 300 pounds of ice was 1,600 kyats, compared with 3,000 kyats in other townships. That meant they could sell at a low price because they don’t pay the real cost of their power to the YESB,” Maung Maung Latt said, adding that the factory that was fined was only paying for a fraction of the power it was using.
The law gives the YESB the power to impose a fine on customers who illegally steal power, he said, adding that the factory had been doing so for some months.
Other factories hoping to cheat their way out of paying electricity bills would also be hit with fines, which can go as high as 200 million kyats, or about $200,000, said Maung Maung Latt.
YESB has been in the process of replacing analogue electricity meters with digital meters since last year.
According to YESB, 44,760 digital meters have been installed in all homes and businesses in Thanlyin, Thonegwa, Dawpon, Thingangyun, South Okkalapa, Khayan and North Dagon townships.
During the replacement process, YESB engineers noted that the majority had been tampered with, suggesting that YESB officials—the only ones allowed to repair the meters—had altered them. Residents report that YESB staff often asked for bribes in return for altering meters to reduce customers’ bills.
Win Maw, deputy chief engineer of the YESB said despite the case of the ice factory, the new digital meters were actually more difficult to cheat that the old ones without detection.
“With analog, it is easier than with the digital meter to cheat the board and not to pay the real cost. Now after replacing the digital meter by the board, they can’t even cheat during a low voltage period, digital meter can calculate whatever they used per day, especially in factories,” he said.