Tonga Power details handling of fraud and cheating by staff
Tonga power utility confident it is on top of fraud issues in a gas company it acquired earlier this year.
Tonga Power Ltd's chief executive, John van Brink, says the company is confident it has got on top of fraud in a gas company it acquired earlier this year.
He says they acted immediately after buying LP Home Gas, sacking several workers and putting new processes in place to ensure the problems do not recur.
Mr van Brink told Don Wiseman about the nature of the wrongdoing.
JOHN VAN BRINK: Initially there was money being pulled out of the company. Because it's very much a cash business the money was being defrauded out of the company. Invoices were being falsified and deliveries were being falsified and the records were just nonexistent.
DON WISEMAN: So in addition to that, there was this underfilling of bottles?
JVB: Correct. It's been going on for about 10 years, apparently.
DW: Over all, with both of these activities, how much money would have been lost out of the company?
JVB: Well over 150,000 pa'anga per annum.
DW: Huge amounts of money.
JVB: It's a huge amount of money. I think in the second case, regarding the underfilling as part of that, I guess it was our customers who were paying for 13 kilograms and getting less gas than they'd paid for, so to an extent it was the customers who actually were underdelivered.
DW: Do you have any idea, then, of what the customers lost?
JVB: No, I don't, sorry. I haven't really got a feel off the top of my head. We're talking about tens of cylinders worth of gas every month.
DW: There must be a lot of angry customers around.
JVB: Yes. In many ways there's been a lot of relief that the problem has been resolved. As you said, it's been going on a long time and there was suspicion these issues existed. I think customers are pleased that Home Gas has taken this problem and sorted it out.
DW: Are you certain that you have sorted it out? What exactly have you done?
JVB: Firstly, staff have been dismissed, but secondly we've made a few changes - things like delivery of cylinders is now checked, reconciled and signed off with dockets as the cylinders leave the gates of the depot. We've got electronic scales installed which are accurate. We're putting in what's called a 'point of sale' system, which actually links the scales back to our financial system. So the people who pay the invoices, the receipts are linked to the actual cylinders being installed. So there's a reconciliation there that's automatic. And we're putting in surveillance cameras.
DW: Are you surprised that something like this would go on in Tonga?
JVB: No. As I said, we were certainly aware of the problem when we purchased home gas and corrections were underway. I think it's disappointing that these things should take place. I'm not really surprised. I think the processes that were in place and the equipment that was being used was substandard for the purpose of good customer service.
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