SARPA has gone from strength to strength over the past few years and taking into account the fact that SARPA members are being invited to speak at international events, proves the point that we are seen as one of the leading Revenue Protection Associations in the world.
The IURPA representative Mr. Michaeli, who delivered the keynote speech at our Convention in Polokwane, said that we needed to expand our vision and become a “world leader” in this regard. We therefore need to take part in more major revenue loss management events and in general supply guidance with regard to Energy theft and non-ferrous theft as far and as wide as possible. Here I would like to point out the fact “that you don’t just get respect, but have to earn it”.
It is therefore about time that we realize that we have a very important role to play in the international arena with regard to economical crimes like “electricity theft” and “non-ferrous thefts”. The processes, guidelines and strategies which we have developed in Southern Africa are well advanced compared to those in most other parts of the globe and therefore there is surely a need to share these with the other role players abroad.
Last year I seized an opportunity to share information by writing an article in the IURPA falls newsletter regarding the SARPA’s Revenue Recovery Project. This article sparked a keen interest in SARPA’s initiatives and several organisations and individuals contacted us for more information. It was soon clear that this was a “world first” for Revenue Protection organisations and Associations worldwide.
Our fortune also changed when we received an invitation to take part in the Metering Central American Conference in Mexico City in May this year. After interacting with the organisers, we decided to volunteer to present a workshop as well, in exchange for them covering all the costs.
As this suggestion was accepted, we were requested to firstly do a presentation at the Water forum on water restriction devices and best practices in the Southern African environment with regard to the minimizing of revenue losses and managing of non revenue water. Secondly, we were tasked to conduct a workshop at the Electricity forum regarding Demand Meter Management principles, the expected effect of smart metering on revenue loss management processes and the integration of advanced metering devices, meter reading, data management and billing systems in order to effectively minimize losses.
After finalising the requirements, it was difficult to decide what level of information we should actually be sharing with the participants from Central America. I have learned from previous experiences at other Conventions abroad, especially when there is a language barrier as well, that revenue protection processes can be very confusing to people who are not familiar with the concept.
The other problem is the fact that it is not practical to discuss issues that are not pertinent to the region, like prepaid meters. So I decided that we should first understand what problems they currently face and then present some simple solutions to each of those. We therefore had our work cut out to do some research and in the end managed to develop two presentations which I thought would work and then set off on my “information sharing mission to Mexico”
However, after attending the first day of the Conference, it was clear that there had to be adjustments made to the water presentation. It was clear that there was no need to share processes as everyone was already very aware of what processes needed to be followed as smart water meters had already been installed in many areas. We chose to focus on best practices and shared some operational issues and did not go into much detail with regard to processes, policy and the laws.
After the presentation at the Water Forum, some Mexican delegates told me that we had really opened their eyes on how to minimize revenue losses and that they never knew other countries had the same problems they have and applauded our wonderful initiatives in this regard.
What I learned from the experience was the fact that Central America has many similar problems to us, but that they currently don’t know what to call it. The term Revenue Protection is quite unfamiliar to them and each Utility currently resorts to all kinds of different methods of trying to determine ways and means of countering the ever-increasing losses.
It seems some of the similarities are for example issues like tampering, illegal connections, dangerous areas to perform remedial actions and lots of faulty metering. The differences however to our African experience are that all the utilities are frustrated by the losses, but do not seem to have the structures and processes in place to deal with the issues as we do. The losses on the water environment are as high as in Africa, but it seems on average the Electricity losses are higher than what we are experiencing locally. It also seems that the metering aspects e.g. faulty meters and non-payment are the biggest culprits. This could also be contributed by the fact that there are currently very few prepaid meters been utilized in these utilities.
After conducting the presentation at the Water forum and experiencing the reaction of the delegates afterwards, it was quite simple to prepare a workshop session that has a “wow factor”. I decided to really pull all my training gadgets out of the hat and coached my co-presenter to do the “walk around thing” while presenting. It worked because he and the audience seemed to have a wonderful time. I also seemed to master the art of making funny remarks and then allowing just enough time, so that the translator can finish. I was told afterwards that she giggled so much when I told the piece about ghost meters and vending that she struggled to get the words out.
The success of the SARPA presentation was very apparent, as several delegates congratulated the facilitators on the excellent presentations and many questions were asked regarding revenue protection issues. The most valuable part of the experience was, however, when the organisers of the event immediately after the workshop conveyed an invitation to the SARPA representative to again take part in similar sessions at the next Metering Conference in Sao Paolo, Brazil in October 2011.
I would first of all like to use the opportunity to thank Tom Phillips and Yolanda San Juan from Conlog for their assistance to SARPA and the opportunity for me to use their stand as a base to engage with participants.
Also to Spintelligent / Clarion and especially Mr. Adriano Rheeder, who has put his faith in us to deliver the goods and sponsoring the traveling and accommodation of the SARPA representative.
Last but not least, to the SARPA Executive for authorising this venture and the openness of mind to see the value of actively engaging with other Utility role-players and in the process share information with regard to revenue protection. This information will be shared in future bulletins and role-players identified during this experience have already indicated that they would like to attend future SARPA and other African Conventions, as they can see that they will be able to learn a lot from our experiences.