The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has tapped Roxas Cruz Tagle and Co. as consultant for a planned audit of various refunds that Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) was ordered to do over the years, including the return to customers of billions in bill deposit, meter deposit and income tax.
According to consumer welfare advocacy group Power for People (P4P) Coalition, Meralco should return to customers a total of P47.4 billion.
Based on P4P’s reckoning, the distribution giant still needs to refund P28.24 billion in bill deposits alone.
Additionally, P4P maintains that Meralco still owes its customers a total of P19.13 billion “for all previous refunds,” including interest.
The ERC said in a statement it had considered engaging the services of a consultant considering that the quasi-judicial body’s current staff was overwhelmed with its “expanded mandates in regulating and transforming the electric power industry.”
Also, the ERC said Roxas Cruz Tagle and Co, which the regulator’s bids and awards committee recommended for having submitted the best bid for the contract, had the technical expertise and capability to conduct an independent audit and verification of all the refunds of Meralco.
Further, ERC chair Agnes Devanadera said the ERC is ensuring that consumers will not bear the cost of the audit, which could have been done by making Meralco pay for it and which might need to be passed on to consumers.
“The [ERC] is of the view that regulation must be borne by the government so we have allocated a budget for the engagement of an independent consultant,” she said.
“The impending audit of Meralco refunds will ensure that what was due to consumers has been actually returned or credited to their accounts and truly benefited them,” she added.
This latest development also means the ERC had dropped a plan, announced in July 2020, to seek the help of the Commission on Audit (COA) for this effort.
Back then, Devanadera said the ERC was short of auditors and that it needed help to find out if the refunds that Meralco was supposed to have undertaken had been completed or not.
She said the COA was “the best entity that could render their evaluation on Meralco’s refund as they are reliable and unbiased.”
The basis of this plan was that the COA had in a previous occasion conducted a complete audit of the books, records and accounts of Meralco upon the request of the ERC.
This was related to the ERC’s need to find out whether the implementation of unbundled distribution rates was done properly and also whether the recovery of generation costs were indeed revenue-neutral to Meralco. INQ
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