Bangladesh’s first-ever electric prepaid metre-manufacturing plant has failed to start its commercial operation as it is already running nearly four months behind the schedule.
State-owned West Zone Power Distribution Company Ltd (WZPDCL), a subsidiary of Bangladesh Power Development Board, and Hexing Electrical Company Ltd, a Chinese firm, have jointly set up the plant under 51:49 ownership basis. The authorised capital of the new company is about Tk 50 crore while the paid-up capital is Tk 28.6 crore.
On September 2, 2018, the company got the government approval after a joint venture contract was signed between the two companies to produce prepaid metres in Bangladesh.
A five-member board of directors was formed in this regard. There are two more employees beside the board of directors under WZPDCL.
To launch the plant and facilitate its activities, the Mridha Complex near zero-point of Khulna was taken on rent in October last year at a monthly rent of Tk 1.60 lakh.
The company was scheduled to begin the manufacturing and assembling metres in June last, a plan which is left in the lurch.
Asked when the production will begin, WZPDCL secretary Abdul Motalib, who is also the director (finance) of the joint venture company, said it will happen soon and could not give any exact date.
Approached with the same question, WZPDCL managing director Eng. Mohamamd Shafik Uddin said it will be opened either in the first or second week of the December next.
Mentioning that production in a single shift will begin at the initial stage, Shafik Uddin said a target has been set to manufacture 2some ,000 metres a day from the plant.
Although the price of the metre has not been fixed yet, they expect it to be less than the market one. But power consumers are not happy with the quality of prepaid meters which are already there in Khulna.
Despite the criticism, locals said, WZPDCL is expediting the activities of the company jointly owned with Hexing Electrical Company Ltd of China. Although it will be the only metre-manufacturing factory of Bangladesh, questions have been raised about its quality, they said.
The mass demand on verifying the quality by Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), Khulna University of Engineering & Technology (KUET) and Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) has not been implemented, they further alleged.
According to sources at WZPDCL, all its consumers will be brought under prepaid metres with the establishment of the new metre company.
Advocate Md Babul Howladar, member secretary of Khulna Nagarik Samaj, said it has already been proved that WZPDCL has wasted public money. “Not only that, the WZPDCL authorities held a press conference and admitted their mistake while asking for six more months to launch the plant.
Ruhin Hossain Prince, one of the organisers of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports said WZPDCL could not ensure its transparency even after so many movements and programmes.
The crisis over WZPDCL’s prepaid metre has been conveyed to the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission and Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), and CAB has already moved the court over the issue, Ruhin said.