Another PGW official is in trouble (computer SNAFU)greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
Another top PGW official is in trouble
CEO Gregory Martin has been suspended over a costly new billing system that has customers frantic.
By Peter Nicholas INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
With thousands of PGW customers puzzling over erroneous bills and telephoning vainly for help, the city-owned utility yesterday suspended one of its top officials pending an inquiry into the costly installation of a new billing and customer service system.The Philadelphia Gas Works announced that it had placed on leave Gregory Martin, chief operating officer, saying he bore responsibility for a computer system that has been running - unreliably - since July.The disciplining of Martin is another blow to a PGW senior leadership team that has been jarred by turnover and embarrassing reports of questionable credit card purchases and relocation expenses.Martin will continue to receive his $250,000 annual salary while on leave. He has worked for PGW for about four years. His wife, reached at home yesterday, said he was not available for comment.PGW officials said the new computer system, which was supposed to cost $9.7 million, has given rise to serious cost overruns. They said the do not yet know the full amount."The bookkeeping is sloppy," said Ben Hayllar, president of PGW. The new billing service has sent out thousands of incorrect bills. In some cases, the utility wrongly estimated gas usage. In others, late fees were unfairly applied or sales tax improperly charged.In October alone, PGW estimates that it sent out about 11,000 erroneous bills. PGW has about 487,000 residential customers.When people call the utility to complain they often must suffer long waits before an operator picks up."They're getting incorrect bills," said G. Christian Kimmerle, executive director of the Philadelphia Gas Commission, which oversees PGW. "They're trying to contact PGW to get them corrected. PGW's customer service lines are being overwhelmed, so customers can't get through."Said Philip Bertocci, the utility's public advocate: "Huge numbers of people just cannot get through to PGW at all. They'll call and they never get a real person." On Thursday, 3,200 people who were calling about their bills hung up before an operator came to the phone. PGW's term for that is an "abandoned" call. The average wait was five minutes.On some days PGW may have as many as 100 operators fielding calls. It's still not enough to cope with the volume, Hayllar said.Yesterday afternoon, customers waited an average of eight minutes before speaking to a PGW employee."That's way slow," Hayllar said. "You want to be within 45 seconds."Martin's future at PGW is in question. PGW chairman J. Gregory Driscoll said PGW's board approved spending $9.7 million on the new computerized billing and customer service system in 1997."Spending has been significantly higher than that," Driscoll said. "We're just assuring that we understand the situation. If we find this type of thing was done without the request for authorization, then we will take the appropriate action and that could include termination" of Martin.If so, it would mean the loss of yet another top manager at a utility that has been shaken by turnover.Last year, then-PGW president James Hawes 3d resigned amid concerns about his staff's use of company credit cards and the money spent to move him here from his job at a Baby Bell in Nebraska. In January, PGW fired its chief financial officer, Ramon Sharbutt, over the company's reimbursement of $6,100 in closing costs paid on the sale of his vacation home in California.
-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), October 29, 1999
Yup, it looks as though it has started. Of course there have been no major screwups until now. Remediated code has not been returned to service. But as we get into the November-December billing cycles, more and more outfits will experience these problems. I guess we are hearing about Philly's problems because this is the SECOND major screwup, after the teachers.
-- K. Stevens (kstevens@ It's ALL going away in January.com), October 29, 1999.
Watcha wanna bet he has a platinum parachute that opens no matter what?
My parachute is a pink slip...
-- Man From Uncle 1999 (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 29, 1999.