SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland — Some councillors in the Opposition People’s National Party-controlled Westmoreland Municipal Corporation have called for the State-run Jamaica Public Service (JPS) Company Ltd to be audited.
They are concerned about inexplicable and frequent increases in electricity bills.
“I don’t know where these bills are coming from. Something is happening at JPS. When you get a bill this month for $10,000 and without an increase [in electricity usage], next month it’s $30,000, something ought to be wrong,” said Councillor Ian Myles (People’s National Party, Little London division).
The last audit by the country’s utilities watchdog group was carried out in 2020 amidst scores of customer complaints of high bills from JPS. The conclusion of that investigation confirmed JPS’s claims that the increase in bills stemmed from higher electricity consumption by customers during the COVID-19 lockdowns. However, Myles is certain that is not the case this time.
He wants the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) to conduct another investigation into how the power supply company calculates customers’ utility bills.
“They [JPS] are just interested in making more and more money while they are offering less and poorer service and this cannot be. I’ve made calls before for the Government to intervene by using its shares in the company to ensure that the citizens are protected. Now, I’m going a step further and I’m calling on the OUR to do an inquest into JPS’s calculations of bills,” Myles told the Jamaica Observer.
“What is the OUR doing to protect the citizens of this country? How are the bills calculated? What supervision does the OUR provide to JPS when they are calculating the bills at this massive per cent increase? Something is wrong and as a representative of a small portion of the population I am asking the OUR to do an audit or something, in terms of what is happening with the bills calculation at JPS,” he continued.
Meanwhile, Councillor Cebert McKenzie (PNP, Leamington division) is concerned about the power supply company’s response time when it is called upon to address faulty equipment. He is convinced that they have a manpower issue.
“At this point I think the JPS is on the verge of collapsing. If you can report broken light wires, and JPS takes one week to respond to something like that, then it means then — we cyaah seh a wicked dem wicked — it means then that they don’t have the capacity to respond,” he said.
“I have a situation close to me where for one week [they] did not have any current in their house and I report it to every level of the JPS, and they took seven days to come. I know they tried. I believe they want to, but they just don’t have the capacity. So I’m calling for the council to call on the Government to have an urgent inquiry. Experts need to look at their books, their technical capacity, their human resource capacity, and the way they function because perhaps they are outsourcing too much of their critical functions,” McFarlane said.
Just days ahead of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, which begins on June 1, McFarlane believes many residents are at risk of being severely affected were the island to be hit by a strong hurricane.
“If a hurricane comes, God forbid, I cannot see JPS restoring electricity in a year.
“ JPS is in a serious state, and being the country’s only power source, we as the representatives can’t sit back and allow that. We have to be serious about it,” McFarlane told the Observer.