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Executive Summary

Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) is the only Utility supplier of Electricity in Sri Lanka
providing this essential service to about 5 million consumers island wide. The majority
of the revenue of CEB is from the domestic sector and are collected by energy
purchasing in a monthly basis after issuing the consumed bill for the previous month.
This task is done by a group of employees called Meter Readers.

The case problem discussed here is the shortage of Meter Readers in Kekirawa Area in
CEB, where it has caused a 6 million rupees monthly income outstanding in each month
and also caused a significant increase of bill arrears position in Kekirawa area.

This problem has occurred due to poor strategic choices made by the government and
the higher management of the CEB. As a solution to the lack of labours in Meter
Reading and other categories, CEB management has implemented a strategy with the
approval of the Cabinet, to outsource the meter reading task to a Private Company
called Energies (A subsidiary of CEB).

But later, with some political agendas, these Man Power employees demanded to make
them permanent employees in CEB by integrating them to CEB service. So, when the
integration of those employees to CEB happened, seven number of contract readers lost
their jobs due to lack of qualifications and as a result a problem of excess 15,000 bills
were remained without distributing.

As solutions to this problem several alternatives were suggested as; Sub contract the
meter reading, posting assessed bills, unread, new recruitments, using the same meter
readers with proper compensation. With the having authority two of them were
currently executed and they are posting of assessed bills (terminated due to increased
issues) and unready (currently done) and the best suggested alternative is to implement
new recruitments for the existing vacancies of the meter reader positions in Kekirawa
CEB.
Table of Contents

Case Problem ................................................................................................................. 3


1. Identification of the Problem .............................................................................. 3
2. Diagnosis and Analysis of the Problem .............................................................. 7
3. Development of Alternative .............................................................................. 10
4. Selection of Desired Alternatives ..................................................................... 11
5. Implementation of Chosen Alternative ............................................................. 13
6. Evaluation and Feedback .................................................................................. 14
Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………17
Case Problem

1. Identification of the Problem

Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) is the only Utility supplier of Electricity in Sri Lanka
providing this essential service to about 5 million consumers island wide. The majority
of the revenue of CEB is from the domestic sector and are collected by energy
purchasing in a monthly basis after issuing the consumed bill for the previous month.
This task is done by a group of employees called Meter Readers.

These Meter Readers have a duty to read the Electricity Utility Meter manually (there
are some remote reading meters in CEB as well, but those are excluded in this case
problem) and calculate the relevant monthly Electricity Bill and issue the consumer a
copy of it. All these Meter Readers have to travel to the consumer locations and deliver
the bills by hand, which implies that this is entirely a manual process until the duplicate
bills are collected and entered to the system by Data Entry Operators.

Reading the
Recieving the Issuing the
Print the next meter at
Billpack by the original copy to
month Bill consumer's
reader the customer
location

Submit the
Entering the data
Send to bill print Checking errors duplicate copy to
to the system
the office

Print the next


month bill

Currently, there is a significant deficit of meter readers in CEB, especially in the North
Central Province. Meter readers are the people who read the monthly electricity
consumption of each consumer and issue the monthly bill to them in the same moment.

Previous month Issue the Red Disconnect the Reconnect after


Red Notice
bill arrears > Notice with supply after 14 claiming full
print
500/- next moth bill days arrears

This case study is focusing about the meter reader issue in Kekirawa Area, in CEB, as
there are currently 08 meter readers in short to deliver the bills monthly in Kekirawa
Area. So as a result, there are about 15,000 number of bills which cannot be distributed
each month. This problem has caused lots of issues for the administration, staff and the
customers.
This problem has resulted in following issues currently;

1. Unread bills of approximately 15,000 per month, leaving them in the office without
reading

An unread bill is a bill of a consumer, which manually passes through the billing system
without entering the energy consumption or the bill for the month. It normally happens
when a bill or set of bills could not be issued due to some reason (eg: leave of Meter
Reader, natural disaster, etc).

But in this case study, only the unread consumer electricity bills due to the
unavailability of Meter Readers are considered.

Unread bills have a different method of calculating the next month bill. Which is not to
consider 30 days as the billing period, but 60 days. So there would not be a significant
impact occur to the consumer by issuing a late bill, where in the CEB domestic block
tariff structure, when the consumption exceeds curtain units, the unit price and fixed
costs are increased.

Eg: A sample bill of 200 units consumed in 30 days and 60 days


30 day period 60 day period
0-60 units 471.00 0-120 units 942.00
61 90 units 300.00 121-180 units 600.00
Bill Calculation 91-120 units 832.50 181-200 units 555.00
121-180 units 1920.00
181-200 units 900.00
Fixed Charge 540.00 480.00
Total Bill 4423.50 LKR 2577.00 LKR

2. Increasing consumer debt position for each month, causing a monthly outstanding
loss of approximately 6 million rupees each month

The monthly outstanding value (arrears position) is calculated as multiplications of


months. So, it’s essential to keep the outstanding value of bills less than one month.
This value depends on several factors, such as consumer payment habits, red notice
issue, disconnection programme, etc.
But due to the unavailability of sufficient meter readers and unreading 15,000 bills per
month has caused to increase the arrears position from 0.94 months (average for year
2016) to 1.78 (average for 2017).

This figure proves the effect that has caused by this meter reader issue to the revenue
of the CEB, Kekirawa.

3. Increased number of high bills and bill errors

This bill unread process also cause lots of issues in the billing system. Most common
issue is high bills, which is a wrong calculation of a bill cause to issue an abnormally
high bill in next month. Because of issuing 15,000 bills in every two months, meter
readers errors has been increased. Also the date errors, bill value errors and other type
of errors also have been increased. As an example, in the year 2016, the average
percentage of errors of a meter reader was 1.08% of the total bills. But in 2017, the
same has a value of 3.17%.

This figure shows the impact to the accuracy of the bills occurred due to this issue. So,
the customers have to suffer due to various changes in the bills and it has caused to
increase the number if daily customer complaints.

4. Unnecessary workload for office staff

The unread bills causes lots of errors. So, in order to rectify the errors, the office staff
has to follow the protocols, which had added additional work load to their daily routine
work. The data entry person has to correct all the error bills after the actual corrected
bill values are received, the meter reader has to issue a new bill to the customer,
Electrical Superintendent or the Area Engineer has to authorize the bill correction and
approve to add journal to correct the error.

Some errors has to be corrected only by journals and it would take couple of months to
get it corrected due to slow process of paper work.

Also, unlike normal routine, this issue has increased number of daily received telephone
calls, daily letters and visits of the customers to the office. All those means, someone
has to attend to the said complaints and it would consume lots of time to explain the
issue to the customers, rectify it and provide a solution.
5. Unhappy consumers and unhappy staff

When the issues are increased and hence the work load increased, mainly the front desk
staff and the data entries have to suffer by facing unhappy and angry customers daily.
The receptionist has to answer to all calls regarding the bill issues and also to explain
the reasons as per her/his knowledge and if further explanation or a solution is needed,
the call or the person is transferred to Electrical Superintendent or the Area Engineer.

This makes most of the staff members unhappy to work in the front desks especially in
Mondays and Wednesdays, where the majority of the customers come to the office.

Also, due to all these unnecessary burden, the customers are the ones who are actually
affected and have to face lots of trouble from paying a different bill and contacting the
CEB office to rectify the error. As explained earlier, some mistakes takes several
months to be corrected and a customer like a Government office, where they have to
keep all records of payments and the irregularities are penalized, the Accountant of the
respective organization has to face the troubles for bill irregularities. Most of the
organizations have to have a bill to pay the money, and by having a bill in every other
two months, the payment periods or the payment month has to be changed.

6. Conflicts between customers and employees

Due to unhappy employees and unhappy customers, the possibility of having conflicts
and arguments are tended to be increased. Most of the time the customers expect an
apology for the mistake happen and but the staff members who don’t have the potential
to deliver the anticipated apology.

This mismatch of interests has made often conflicts between the employees and the
customers and results troubles and conflicts which needs to solve by the Area Engineer.

7. Damage to the reputation of CEB

This issue of not giving the monthly electricity bill on time has caused a significant
damage to the CEB image, and mainly caused due to unhappy customers. This problem
was not given any public awareness by the higher management or the Ministry of Power
and Renewable Energy. Hence the consumers are reluctant to accept the fact that there
is such problem in existence.
Also there were several incidents occurred due to news published in TV news in several
channels with a direct accusation for the CEB officials for the inability to deliver the
bills on time. Also there were couple of newspaper articles regarding this issue.
8. Internal issues within the organization

Unhappy employees normally create internal issues in the organizations. Due to the
conflicts between customers and being subjected to accusations by the customers,
mainly the meter readers have started protesting regarding this problem and the lack of
the ability of the management to solve this internal problem.

Some of their trade unions have already warned the management that they would go to
trade union actions, unless this problem is sorted immediately.

Also there are conflicts reported between front desk employees and meter readers,
where the front desk employees have accused the meter readers for not issuing correct
bills and hence they are suffering unnecessary workloads.

2. Diagnosis and Analysis of the Problem

This problem has caused lots of issues in the day to day activities in the office and when
analyzing the root causes the following were identified as the main reasons for the
problem which study in this case study.

- Statistics of the problem; new consumes and increasing growth rate, and the arrears
position

In CEB, the annual customer growth rate tends to be increased in each year. As
an example, the new connection percentage of year 2015 was 3.04% and in 2016
it was 16.7%, where there were several electrification schemes were introduced
in 2016.

Also by 2017 present, the new connection percentage has reported 11.1% value,
which is a considerable growth where the loan schemes were already terminated
for low income people.

These figures implies that there are new customers adding to the system each
year, but there are not enough recruitments to increase the meter readers to
match the increasing number of bills.

Also in each year, there are retirements (not all years), but in the HR planning,
they have not given that enough attention, where the existing meter readers get
pressured with the total bill load to be completed within a month.

- Man Power reader issue


As a solution to the above given matter, CEB management has implemented a
strategy with the approval of the Cabinet, to outsource the meter reading task
(along with some other labour requirements) to a third party, where CEB would
follow the formal procurement method to select the suitable labour company.

But there was some problems with the labour company and later CEB has
established their own subsidiary called Man Power Energies, and recruited and
maintained the outside contracted labour through that company.

In this process a rate of 11.75/- was authorized by the Board of Directors of the
CEB, for the payment to the Energies Company. So there were 32 number of
contract meter readers working in the CEB Kekirawa. So, due to the fact that
the higher income can be obtained by doing higher number of bills, most of the
contract readers were doing monthly bill packs around 3,500 to 4,000 bills per
pack.

So, when the integration of those employees to CEB happened, seven number
of contract readers lost their jobs due to lack of qualifications. Hence there were
around 20,000 bill deficit occurred as a result. But there was a temporary
solution obtained with the discussion of permanent Meter Readers to do 5,000
of those bills apart from their previous packs.

However, this resulted with an extra 15,000 bills to be distributed. But without
a way of doing it according to the Bill distribution policies.

- Political decisions

When the decision of the integrating of the Man Power readers to CEB was
taken, many management members had raised this same question and also
warned the Minister and Board of Directors regarding the upcoming problem.
But they anyway implemented the Political decision without concerning about
the said problem and now it has become a huge problem to the CEB
administration. Which reflects poor planning and neglecting the view and
suggestions of lower management, which can obviously highlighted as a poor
management practice.

- Meter reader’s circular

The current bill reading policy is the Meter Readers Circular issued in Year
2010 by the Distribution Coordination Committee (DCC). It states the basic
guidelines of issuing bills, including the specified minimum number of bills to
do by a Meter Reader per day according to their field conditions (Urban, Semi-
Urban, Town, Village, Rural, etc).

But this document has no bases mentioned in preparing that figures, where some
values are practically very low, and most meter readers cover those number of
bills within few hours and claim their overtimes as well.

So it shows the requirement of a new meter reading policy guideline, after doing
a proper research and survey covering all type of necessary field segments. Even
some meter readers accept that the values given as minimum requirement are
too low in practice.

- New recruitment policy issues

In CEB, the new recruitments of lower grades (all grades excluding Executives)
are done through the Personal branch and the practical way of doing it all the
appointments are to be filled by the lists of candidates send by the Ministry (i.e:
Minister’s List), after doing interviews and filtering according to their
qualifications.

But this kind of recruitment decision have to be taken by the Minister and the
Board of Directors, where they are very biased on political propagandas,
whereas targeting elections, etc for new recruitments.

Though CEB have a well-structured recruitment policy, the Political influences


have made it impossible to execute the necessary actions and rectify these
problems in much efferent way and lesser time too. This reflects the influence

Merter Reder Vacancies in CEB Kekirawa


20
Number of Readers

15

10

0
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Year

Required Mater Readers New Appoinments


have to an organization under the Government by an external organizational
environment, the Political-Legal environment.

3. Development of Alternative

After analysis and diagnosis of the case study problem, there can be several alternatives
identified to solve this issue and they are explained below.

1. Sub contract

The best and cost effective alternative would be sub-contracting. But it needs the
permission of the Director Board of the CEB and a sub-contracting policy has to be
implemented too. But it would be relatively easy and quick considering the time and
effort to be taken to implement another alternative.

This alternative can be implemented either as a temporary solution or permanent


solution. But there is a slight problem or a hesitation of a demand from those contract
employees to integrate to CEB permanent service later, where it can be avoided by
having a proper legal contact with those employees from the beginning.

2. Post (asses)

This alternative has already been tried and failed. This is a temporary alternative with
the current resources, where an estimated bill will be send to the customers by post on
monthly basis, where the original reading and the bill can be issued in a considerable
intervals (eg : once in 2 months).

But this option is costly and time and labour consuming, also most of the bills would
not reach the customers destinations due to address issues. Also the addresses in the
bills and the real addresses may not be the same.

This method would cost lots of labour hours, for assessing the bills, write the values
and addresses on the bills and envelop, to put the stamps, counting and making the lists,
etc. So due to all these difficulties, this alternative was only carried for 3 months and
decided to terminate.

3. Unread (currently done)

This is the alternative that is currently executed, where the excess amount of bills are
distributed once in two months with exchanging with similar number of regular bills
using the permanent meter readers. So all the consumers get an original bill at least
once in two months’ time. This strategy is practical and requires no authority or
permission from higher administration. So the execution was straightforward.
But this alternative has similar set of disadvantages as mentioned in the problem
identification section. Bill errors, dissatisfied customers and employees, unnecessary
workloads, etc can be given as examples.

4. New recruitments

The most suitable and permanent alternative is the recruitment of new meter readers as
soon as possible. The HR administrative should act promptly to rectify this problem by
highlighting the impacts of this to the higher management and recruit the required
number (17) of new meter readers to CEB Kekirawa and other Areas which are
suffering with the same problem immediately.

By this recruitment, most of the problems such as dissatisfied employees and


unnecessary workloads will be solved with the major issue of the shortage of the meter
readers.

5. Use same readers with new allowance or paying method

This is an another alternative that can be proposed, where the current meter reading
guideline circular having practical shortages, a new allowance or paying method can be
introduced by cancelling the said circular and make use of the existing meter readers to
read more bills in future.

This strategy would solve any upcoming problems in similar manner, where if the
existing readers can deliver more than expected and if they are compensated for the
extra as well. Which would have a significant impact in future problems and would be
able to avoid dissatisfied employee problem as well as delays of new recruitments.

4. Selection of Desired Alternatives

Being an existing problem, this case study problem has been tried to solve even
temporary, by using some of the above suggested alternatives. Those alternatives are
discussed as selected alternatives in the below and along with the most suitable and
permanent solution for the said problem.
Following alternatives have been already selected and executed. But those were not the
permanent and last longing solutions for this issue due to following reasons. The
selected alternatives are not ranked according to their characteristics abut in order of
executed times.

In selecting any alternatives, level of authority in the Area Engineer, pressure from
customers, convincing higher management, trade union pressure and many other factors
were involved.

Basically all parts of Organizational/Business Environment were considered in


selecting the following alternatives.

1. Posting of assessed Bills (Terminated now)

Posing of the assessed bills was selected as the first alternative, as firstly it seemed to
be a good solution to overcome the unreading errors. The methodology used was, the
excess bills were assessed based on the average consumption value and the last month
bill and entered the least of the two.

Eight number of training employees/students were used for this purpose and they have
been supervised by the Data Entry clerks and Commercial Electrical Superintendent.
But due to complex tariff structures and different tariff categories, the assess errors were
higher than expected. Though the training students were given a substantial training,
they had little understand about the overall process of billing and bill system.

One of the main reasons for selecting this alternative was to avoid paying unnecessary
over time to the permanent meter readers, where they demanded extra overtime
payments for the extra bills, which is a violation of CEB overtime payment schemes.

A special approval for stamp duties was required and the Deputy General Manager was
agreed to provide that through the General Manager of CEB. The training student
requirement was calculated based on average manual bill calculation time of a new
meter reader. The required stamps were planned to get by the existing stamping
machine in the office.

2. Unread (Currently done)

After terminating the previously chosen alternative, there were no other option but to
move with the remaining practical alternative solution within the Middle Management
authority.

So it was planned to unread the excess bills by the billing data system manually and
enter as zero bills. So the time consumed by data entries to minimize the billing errors
in the previous alternative could be reduced significantly.
The selected areas of the unread bill packs of the routine bills of permanent readers was
planned to select from village areas, where there are less Government or Private
organizations, which could be effected considerably higher than a household consumer
where they have little issues regarding book keeping and fund allocations.

Also it was agreed, if there were any such organizations, to inform them to contact the
Area Engineer’s office and get a separate bill for the unread month for the purpose of
funds allocation and payments.

3. New Recruitments (Best alternative)

This could be selected as the best possible alternative which would solve all the
described problems among the all suggested alternatives. This would be the solution
for all the shortages of employees though it takes long time and the proper initiations
from the top management.

The strategy should be to forecast the required employee numbers in relevant categories
and start the hiring process well in advance and then all shortages can be rectified.

5. Implementation of Chosen Alternative

1. Posting of assessed Bills (Terminated now)

As described, a special approval was obtained from the General Manager of CEB to
post the bills and the necessary expenses were also approved. The approval was
soughed for 3 months period to re-evaluate of the strategy after 3 months’ time.

After calculating the required number of trainees for the implementation, it was
requested and was given by the HR division of North Central Province. All the trainees
were given a one week training of the billing procedure and the systems associated with
consumer billing. The bill calculation formulas were given in written format and
constant supervision was done by data entry clerks.

The Commercial Electrical Superintendent randomly checked assessed bills and if there
were significant errors, the trainees who did those packs were advised and gave special
supervision.

The letters were categorized according to respective areas and handed over to the post
office to avoid any delay of letter sorting. Also the post offices were informed about
this strategy and requested their support in order to achieve the anticipated outcomes.
The required envelops were purchased locally and ensured there were no shortage of
stamping credits and envelops all the time. A separate employee was allocated to mark
the envelope with the office seal and the pre-paid stamp seal.

2. Unread (Currently done)

It was planned to divide the excess 15,000 bills equally to all permanent readers and
allocated those bill packs to them in writing. There were several discussions with them
and agreed the execution plan, where they do the excess bill pack in one month and do
their routine pack in the next.

The data entry operators were informed about the unread process and followed up
regularly to avoid any mistakes. All the front desk employees were also informed about
the strategy and given instructions how to explain the process to a consumer if there is
any inquiry.

For all the unread and replace bill packs, a time schedule has been made and distributed
among all respective employees, to make aware of the current situation in each month.
Also the disconnection programme was excluded for these affected areas.

3. New Recruitments (Best alternative)

The required number of employees or the current number of vacancies of each


employee category should be collected through the provincial HR department. Then the
total requirements are to be assessed from the DGM (Personal) office and make
necessary actions to start hiring procedures.

This should be a constant circulation procedure, whereas the existing recruitment


system has considerable shortcomings.

6. Evaluation and Feedback

1. Posting of assessed Bills (Terminated now)

This alternative was a failure due to flowing reasons.

- High number of office employee allocation


- Lack of experience of trainees and the requirement of constant supervision
- Time consuming method
- Expensive
- High rate of return letters
- Consumer complains
- Errors in the bills and bill issues in next month bills
- Unnecessary workloads for office staff
- No significant reduction in the excess bills and the arrears position
- Unhappy customers and unhappy staff

2. Unread (Currently done)

This alternative is currently on proceed with several drawbacks. But some of the issues
could be identified and corrected.

- 6 million rupees of monthly outstand loss still continuing


- Considerably accurate solution with minimized errors
- High work load for the office employees
- Unnecessary burden for the front desk employees
- Unhappy customers and unhappy employees
- Damage to the reputation

5. Conclusion
This problem has occurred due to poor strategic choices made by the government and
the higher management of the CEB. What they could have done is estimate the real
employee requirement before integrating the Man Power employees to the CEB and
then get the deficit with outside recruitment along with the Man Power employees to
avoid any shortages of Meter Readers.

This incident would result very bad public image of CEB and will cause a significant
financial loss to the CEB as well.