OK, I work in accounting. We're a SMALL O&G company (don't blame *me* for the high prices - we have nothing to do with them, and frankly, I am scared to death. I *KNOW* what's coming, but no one listens to me.....never mind. That's a totally different rant for a different day), and we keep an Eagle Eye on Income and Expenses. If *we* can do it, with (at one point) over 1,500 checks coming thru the door Each Month, why can't my electric company (I should note here - we did it with only *2* employees. *2*!) So.....here's my thoughts on this "situation".
1) The Accounting Department should run a Financial Statement EVERY MONTH. You can see at a glance if your income is down, and should immediatly try to figure out WHY. We have (at the moment) 20 TX Gas Wells. We pull the production volumes from the State of TX site, plug them into a spreadsheet with the approximate average price for that month, and get an estimate of what *that* check should be. When the check comes in, we see how close we were - when we're off (and we HAVE been) we call the producer and find out WHY. (We do this with *every* check...it doesn't take that long, since the spreadsheets are set up, and we have a pretty good handle on our estimated monthly income)
SO. I did some rough calculations. There are 16 houses on my street - I can walk the entire street in 10 minutes, tops. I figure, if I had to go up to each house, it might - MIGHT - take a little under an hour. Let's use *easy* numbers...and say the meter reader can read 20 meters an hour. If we estimate a 5 hour work-day (or...5 hours to read all the meters *that* day..giving him 3 hours for lunch/driving/whatever) we get 20 x 5 = 100 meters read per day. Let's also assume that he only reads meters 2 weeks out of the month (or, 10 working days) which gives us 100 x 10 = 1,000 meters read per month PER reader (I'm only concerned with the 1 reader, here...but you get the idea)
OK....1,000 meters read a month. Now, let's talk money. According to my bill, I was undercharged approximately $743 over the 6 months the man "didn't read the meters correctly". $743 / 6 = $123.84 - let's round that up to $125 (easy numbers, remember?). Going with the assumption that he did the same thing to *everyone* on his route...let's call it $100 per meter (to account for some overcharges, and some under charges LESS than mine, just to be fair - and $100 is an "easier" number than $125).....1,000 x $100 = $100,000.00 PER MONTH undercharged.
No one noticed a $100,000 DECREASE in income? What kind of racket are they running here? (Calm down. Deep breath. Happy thoughts)
2) No one noticed a monthly decrease of $100,000 - even though the rates just went up a bit. Bit of a stretch..but OK, I'll buy it. However, WE run Quarterly Reports, and we do Y/E forcasting, based on the previous quarter. (In the sense of full disclosure, I must say that right now our projections aren't worth the paper they're printed on - Oil prices are flucuating so much that we just can't get any realistic numbers...so we do the best we can. Also - the Oil Prices as being reported right now are FUTURE prices - prices for Oil sold 2 months from now. Just so you know.) We take the average price of the previous 3 months, assume the same volumes, and run with it. IF the numbers look down - WE FIND OUT WHY. We don't wait for mid-year reports...we keep on top of this stuff.
So......energy prices went up. I think it was a whopping $0.03/KWH - not that bloody much. Assuming the same KWH usage, SOMEONE should have noticed that projected income =/= actual income. Why didn't they???? (Unless they don't do projections......in which case, I wanna work for Them. Less work, for the same pay - whee!)
In 6 months, we have an estimated LOSS of income at $600,000.....and yet, no one noticed until "a customer called to complain he hadn't seen a meter reader in 6 months". R-I-G-H-T. Anyone else smell something fishy, here?
And another thing - I watch my bills. I knew prices had gone up, so I expected my bills to go up. My electric bill has been running about normal - except for *1* month, where it was $90 LESS than I anticipated. No big deal - it was for a month that had been (in my opinion) rather mild - I remember we opened the windows a couple of days there, because it wasn't cold enough for the heater to kick in, yet wasn't hot enough for the A/C to switch on, either. The other months? Right at the level I expected....so....I have no clue what they're doing.
ANY accounting unit worth their pay should have been looking at this - spot checking a few houses on each route, even, just to keep the readers honest. I mean, if the reader says client A's current reading is 1234 on the first, and when the Auditor goes out to check on the 5th it's 1250, that's probably correct. If it's 1520...then we might have a problem here, and this needs to be looked into more carefully. (And I don't mean just now - I mean this should have been in place from the get-go. You HAVE to keep your employees accountable, and the easiest way to do that is to spot-check their work on a random schedule. Which is why we keep track of the production volumes ourselves. It's saved us NUMEROUS times - we have 1 vendor that...well, they don't like letting go of the revenue. At one point, they owed us $150,000.....and WE had to prove it. With our spreadsheets, it was easy...but I feel for the companies that DIDN'T keep track of this stuff.)
This isn't rocket science, here - it's basic accounting with good management pricipals. Which my electric company is apparantly lacking. Sweet Geek is reporting it to the State Board...and I've talked to a few people. Their side of the conversation includes words like "class", "action", and "lawsuit". My side of the conversation includes words like "Off", "Grid", "Solar" and "Wind" .:sigh:
I don't know what they're doing...but I don't like it. I'd like them to provide a full report, done by outside auditors...but I don't know that they'll do that. I do know that, if I get notice of the "other side" conversation, it's going to take a LOT of thought before I DON'T sign in....on the one hand, I'd be paying twice - once in the higher charges on my monthly bill (they do, after all, have to recoup the expenses, yes?) and once again in the cut the attorneys will take of the proceeds. :sigh: Not an easy decision to make, now is it?