A South African designed information management software system, developed in a Cape Town garage, is today helping combat rampant electricity fraud that is costing taxpayers many millions of rand each month.
The advanced replication technology (ART) management system, based on the Oracle platform, was conceived five years ago and developed by Grassie Coetzee and Johann Matthews of Infotrans - now part of PN Energy Services.
PN Energy Services was formed jointly by two of the world's largest electricity utilities - SA's Eskom and France's EDF - to tackle the substantial task of collecting revenue for electricity usage.
The ART solution is now one of the main weapons in the anti-fraud arsenal being used by PN Energy as well as many local authorities in SA, and Eskom on a nationwide basis.
It is also being used to support the RDP through the management of electrification projects. The programme at Khayelitsha, a previously disadvantaged urban community of Cape Town, is an example.
After the initial electrification of 40 000 homes, no further major electrification was undertaken in the period 1996 to 1999 in this area because of the high level of fraud.
Now, with the support of ART a further 40 000 homes are in the process of being electrified and the programme is once again on track. In its fight against fraudulent activities, PN Energy uses the ART system to identify or 'flag' pay-points at which irregular activities take place.
For example, it can highlight areas where pre-paid electricity purchases and deposits into PN Energy's accounts do not correlate - or where there are unnecessary delays in this process.
"In a recent case in the Cape area, PN Energy was realising only about 40% of its collections and widespread fraud was suspected," says Coetzee. "We were collecting around R900 000 per month, but now, since the introduction of the ART system, more than R2,3 million is being banked in the same period." Coetzee says the system is designed to ensure that money collected for a financial service is in the bank within a 24-hour cycle.
ART was designed as a generic system, easily customisable to accommodate different payment processes. It was initially based on the Oracle 7 database environment and developed using Oracle's CASE tools, but it is now being ported to Oracle's latest database platform - Oracle 9i. ART operates by replicating master and transaction data - from the creation of a new PN Energy account to the payment of pre-paid electricity, the subsequent deposit of the collection into PN Energy's account and the consumer entering the amount into a pre-paid meter.
For more information: Francois Marais, Oracle SA, 011 266 4000, firstname.lastname@example.org
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