- Four shop owners nabbed for electricity theft
Barrington Flemming – Staff Reporter
four shop operators at the problem plagued People’s Arcade in Montego Bay, St. James are now behind bars for illegal abstraction of electricity after a joint police and Jamaica Public service team swooped down on the facility last Thursday.
The four includes three men who were part of a major wood work shop being operated with electrical connections but no metre, while the fourth man operates a juice factory.
Lesgar McGrath, Large Accounts Officer of the JPS told the Western Mirror that the operation was conducted to investigate and remove illegal connections to JPS’ secondary lines.
He said of the more than 400 shops at the arcade only 15 were legally connected to its system and therefore it was forced to disconnect hundreds of illegal lines at the facility.
“Based on our assessment we are losing over $560,000 dollars monthly due to illegal abstractions at the arcade, with a conservative figure of $6.7 million annually”, he explained.
The disconnections in the meantime have plunged the arcade into another round of controversy with shop operators accusing the management of the Jamaica Railway Corporation of placing a stop order on the shops from legally accessing electricity.
“Why is there a stop order? We cannot do business because we have no electricity and despite the fact that we have taken the legal route we have been denied. Shop owners and tenants have taken the requisite actions to gain legal access, so why are we being denied?” asked Jodi- Ann Blair, who along with Godfrey Norman, operate a restaurant and bar at the arcade.
Oneil Williams, who operates a restaurant, showed a copy of the form from the Ministry of Energy and Mining – Electrical Division which was filled out by an electrician to pass his shop as fit for connection to the JPS lines. He further said the form was submitted to the JPS but no connection was made to the shop.
“So why is it that we have to be facing these embarrassing situations, when we have done the correct thing? he questioned.
Fitzroy Williams, Chief Executive Officer of the Jamaica Railway Corporation, when contacted, denied that there was a stop order – but indicated that he was preparing to send a document to the Jamaica Public Service to advise the company as to how to proceed.
He said the shop operators already know that there is no stop order but that they should approach the JRC who is the property owner who would advise them what to do under the plan to regularize operations at the facility.
“These persons will have to initiate contact with the JRC and we will begin a process that will lead to the formalization of operations. We are not going to go ahead and give them a letter to continue the informal arrangement and we want to fulfil a broader objective of regularizing the use of the facility so JPS will be advised as to how to proceed when these persons approach them,” Mr. Williams said.
Mr. McGrath, in the meantime, told the Western Mirror that many shop operators went to the JPS with the official form passing their shops as fit:“but we cannot give them electricity without proof of ownership of the property or a letter from the owner saying ‘yes’ – you are authorised to provide electricity supply to this customer. So, the Jamaica Public Service cannot take a contract without a letter of authorization from the owner and the Jamaica Railway Corporation is the owner of the property,” McGrath pointed out.