Utility companies continue to lose millions to theft

The island's utility companies say they continue to lose millions of  dollars due to theft  of  service as well as equipment and describe it as a significant problem that is affecting not only their bottom line but their customers.
The problem was disclosed at a webinar hosted by the Office of  Utilities Regulation (OUR) on Tuesday.
Director of  Losses Operations & Analytics at the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), Rasheed Anderson, said the company estimates that  200,000 households and commercial entities are stealing electricity. 
This compared to the 600,000 legitimate customers.
Anderson disclosed that in 2017, the JPS paid US$70.8 million   for fuel that was not recovered. The figure so far this year is US$ 32.2 million .
Meanwhile,  the National Water Commission (NWC) estimates that between 12 per cent  and 30 per cent of  its supplies are stolen.
Corporate Communications Manager at the NWC, Charles Buchanan, says between 250,000 to 300,000 connections are involved in the theft of  water.
And telecommunications companies Digicel and FLOW reported that they are also being significantly affected by theft and vandalism.  This includes theft  of cables, generators, batteries and fuel. 
Director of  Corporate Communications and Stakeholder Management at FLOW, Kayon Mitchell, says so far this year, fifty one communities have been affected by theft and vandalism, costing the company US$1.9 million  to restore services. 
Digicel, which is experiencing similar issues of  theft and vandalism, says expensive equipment including batteries placed at cell sites, are being stolen and sold for scrap metal.
Group Head of  Field Operations Management at Digicel, Anthony Barrows, pointed out that batteries which cost the companies $80,000 each, are being sold for scrap metal for less than $2,000.

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