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Some MPs peeved by JPS anti-theft efforts

Published:Sunday | November 23, 2014 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
UNITED IN THE FIGHT AGAINT ELECTRICTY THEFT: form left Sweeney (regional director, JPS); Julian Robinson (minister of state , ministry of science technology, energy and mining); Kelly Tomblin (president and CEO, JPS); Desmond McKenzie (member of parliament, west kingston); Scarlette Gillings (managing director, JSIF); Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller; and Colin Bullock (chairman, JSIF).

Some Members of parliament are reportedly upset with the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) for its aggressive approach to the theft of electricity in their constituencies.

The anti-theft drive has been ongoing islandwide and massive disconnections have been undertaken in communities aligned to the two major parties.

But not every MP agrees with the drive to get the people in their constituency to pay for electricity, and Kelly Tomblin, president and chief executive officer of the JPS, says the company is well aware of the displeasure of these people's representatives.

According to Tomblin, one MP has admitted to stealing electricity at some point in his life in a seeming effort to justify the theft by his constituents.

"Finally, we are getting some support from MPs in our efforts. But this (support) is not even across the board. But everyone can rest assured that we are fair in our efforts. You may see us doing this (in particular communities) but our effort is across the board," Tomblin told The Sunday Gleaner.

attacked by constituents

The JPS boss noted that in some instances, the MPs have come under attack from their constituents, who are unhappy with the company's disconnection practices.

"Some have been verbally attacked by constituents opposed to the disconnection drive and who want the elected representatives to push back the anti-theft bid. So when we went into McGregor Gardens (formerly McGregor Gully in South East St Andrew) the MP (Julian Robinson) was there. He took a lot of abuse, and then they blame it on 'big man, little man' idea," said Tomblin.

Robinson, who heads the task force to reduce electricity theft, last week pointed to measures implemented in McGregor Gardens as an example of how the problem will be addressed.

These include five community consultation meetings involving the residents, the political directorate and representatives of the JPS and the Jamaica Social Investment Fund.

He noted that 100 residents will be selected shortly to have their homes rewired as part of the pilot project, while the JPS has established a temporary office at the McGregor Gardens Community Centre where residents can have access to personnel and sign up for this pilot project.

In addition, a liaison officer has been recruited by the JPS to act as the interface with the community, and four residents of the community have been selected to undergo training in house wiring and electrical installation, for which they will receive certification from the HEART Trust/NTA.

"Finally, the Government of Jamaica through the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining will be tabling amendments to the Electricity Act before the end of this fiscal year to increase the fines and penalties for those who are caught stealing electricity and to broaden the definition of what constitutes electricity theft," said Robinson in a letter to The Gleaner.

However, residents of some inner-city communities have argued that they are being specially targeted by the JPS while persons in affluent communities steal electricity undetected.

This view seems shared by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who last Tuesday suggested that the users in inner-city communities with illegally obtained electricity supply were the cases which made headlines.

But Tomblin dismissed this suggestion, saying no one is given special favours as she reiterated the company's determination to go after electricity thieves wherever they are.

According to Tomblin, electricity theft is being targeted wherever it happens and the company's push is not because of any quarrel with either residents, or the political representatives.

The JPS president said the company wants to collect all the revenue that it is rightfully due to satisfy the demands of its customer base, as well as give shareholders a fair return on their investments.