Burlington Electric Department Taking Steps to Correct Billing Errors and Implement Preventative Action Plan

For Immediate Release

Sept. 5, 2014                                                                                      
Contact:  Mary Sullivan                                                                                                                         

Burlington Electric Department Taking Steps to Correct Billing Errors and Implement Preventative Action Plan
Recent issues lead to in-depth, multi-part review of customer billing

Burlington, VT – Burlington Electric Department (BED) Interim General Manager Neale Lunderville was joined by Mayor Miro Weinberger today to announce the discovery by BED staff of significant over-billing errors involving two of BED’s large commercial customers, the City of Burlington and the University of Vermont, as well as an under-billing error involving the ECHO Center.  The discovery of these billing issues has led to a complete and thorough review of BED’s metering and billing processes to ensure that the issues are quickly addressed, corrections made, and preventative measures put in place for the future.   

“After a preliminary review of the issues, we believe this is a confined problem,” said Lunderville.  “However, we have an obligation to our customers to ensure that these are indeed isolated incidents. That is why we have taken the measures to conduct a complete review, with the assistance of outside experts, to examine all aspects of BED billing processes.”

BED already has conducted a review of residential and small commercial accounts, which make up the vast majority of the customers, and BED is pleased to report that no issues were found.  BED now is focused on its review of demand meters for large commercial and industrial customers, the area in which the two problems occurred.

“These errors were avoidable and should not have remained undetected for so many years – our customers should not have to worry about the accuracy of their bills,” said Mayor Weinberger.   “Once these issues came to light, BED acted quickly and decisively to diagnose the problems, correct the mistakes, initiate a review of all other accounts, and communicate a detailed explanation of the issues to our customers and the public.  I appreciate new interim General Manager Lunderville's leadership of this extensive response.  I have confidence that our team at BED will resolve these issues and put new systems in place to prevent similar problems in the future.  Additionally, I have directed the CAO’s Office to lead a review of all City billing systems and to focus on our invoice processing practices as part of our ongoing, broad effort to improve the City’s internal controls.”

The problems came to light when BED staff investigated what appeared to be irregularities between usage and billing with two accounts:  the City street lighting account and the combined UVM Rubenstein Lab and ECHO Center account.  BED has met with the impacted customers and agreed on appropriate corrective measures – including reimbursements where appropriate – and implemented additional controls to ensure that the problems are not repeated.  Further, BED has hired KPMG to provide independent, third-party assessment of BED billing practices and procedures, and to thoroughly analyze BED’s systems to look for weaknesses and offer recommendations.

“This situation is unfortunate, and there never is a good time to share this type of news,” Lunderville continued.  “I want to commend the team at BED and extend my appreciation to the affected customers for their understanding and cooperation as we work to remedy these issues. We are committed to a thorough and transparent review of our processes and will take all steps necessary to help prevent this sort of thing in the future.”

Please see City Attorney Memo and Interim GM Memo, both attached to this release.

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