JAMAICA PUBLIC Service (JPS), the light and power company, can't claim a nice reputation among its customers. It is, to most, Shylock writ large.
That reputation does not absolve the JPS's clients, including municipal authorities, from efficiently managing their business with the company. Indeed, it places on them a greater burden to do so.
That is why, in the absence of clear cause, we are not particularly sympathetic to the whimperings of the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) for supposedly being hard done by JPS. The KSAC and parish councils are no unmuscled individuals. The matter has to do with their bills for street lights.
As we understand the system, the councils pay a flat tariff - the last one was approved by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) in 2009 - based on the number of street lamps in the parish and 12 hours of lighting - from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The KSAC has bill of nearly J$700 million a year. The corporation complains, with some justification we believe, that it does not get fair value.
Its first problem is that many of the municipality's street lights do not work. We do not know where the service contract places the obligation for policing the system or the remedy for failing to honour an obligation.
The KSAC, along with other councils, short-pays on its bills, which we suspect has as much, if not more, to do with with its cash-flow crisis as any concern over the JPS's service delivery.
The point is the KSAC cannot say with any level of certainty how many street lamps in the Corporate Area do not work. It is now conducting a survey that should be completed sometime next year.
Our recollection is that previous to this, a similar survey was done in 2003 when around 10 per cent of the then 23,000 street lights were in need of repair.
It seems to us that whoever else may be responsible, it is good economic and social sense for the KSAC to be on top of these things. It is not a complex or expensive thing to accomplish.
The other matter over which there is whingeing from the KSAC is the reported double charging by JPS when energy-saving LED street lamps are erected. That ought to result in economic savings and power efficiency all round.
As it turns out, at the time of the last tariff arrangment, there was, inexplicably, nothing in the agreement for rebates to municipal customers when such lamps are installed. These days LEDs are usually installed on the application of private or state developers. These public/private entities are required to register as new customers with the JPS and are separately billed - outside the street lamp quotas of the local government. The councils, however, can have these lights transferred to their accounts. If not, the independent clients continue to be billed separately - to the benefit of the JPS's bottom line.
That, on the face of it, is not fair. But competent parish councils, and other public-sector agencies, in the interest of taxpayers, would be expected to move quickly to bring these systems under the municipal quota/consumption system. Further, the advent of new cost-saving technologies is grounds for a party to an agreement to ask for its review.
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