Serious criticisms of Hydro One missing from Ombudsman report

Me, me, me, and, did I mention--me?
Me, me, me, and, did I mention–me?

Fifteen months after it was launched, the report from Andre Marin, Ontario’s Ombudsman, is finally out.
Exactly why it took 15 months to complete is worrisome: there have been literally dozens and dozens of articles on this issue, an Auditor General’s report, numerous letters to the editor, TV and radio exposure, etc., that detailed Hydro One’s billing and smart meter problems since the Ombudsman’s announcement of an investigation.
Hydro One was the fifth most complained about provincial entity for the 2011 and 2012 year, according to the Ombudsman’s own annual reports. Many of the articles and letters go back well before the launch of his investigation.  Most of those earlier complaints were connected to billing issues as a result of “smart meters” installed by Hydro One, but Mr. Marin clearly states in the 119-page report  “we received many complaints about subjects that were not the focus of this investigation – chiefly, electricity pricing and smart meters.”  Were those complaints included in his estimation of the 10,000 plus he claimed they investigated?
Why were “smart meter” related issues simply ignored?  Was it a lack of technical abilities within the Ombudsman’s office, or a case of being overwhelmed by the billing problems? Why wouldn’t the Ombudsman at least note in one of his 66 recommendations that someone with the technical skills should investigate the “smart meter” problems?
Surprisingly the report also says nothing about how the Ontario Energy Board has ignored Hydro One’s problems with the smart meters, nothing about the Energy Ministry’s role or their lack of oversight, and basically nothing critical of Hydro One’s senior management and its apparent failings.  Was Mr. Marin concerned any critique about those subjects might lead to his contract not being renewed?  If that was the case he doesn’t deserve to be our watchdog.
I have reviewed the findings in the report and his 66 recommendations and found many to be repetitive and overlapping.  I also found the report skirted many of the issues that needed examination as the root cause of the billing problems.   In my humble opinion, the Ombudsman’s prejudice against the private sector also shines brightly in the report as does his self-proclamation of his personal skill sets.
©Parker Gallant,
May 30, 2015
Read more Parker Gallant on the Ombudsman report here: Ombudsman’s report-the good, the bad and the ugly

What's your reaction?


  • Greg Latiak
    Posted May 31, 2015 7:10 pm 0Likes

    Were this the 1960s and the billing system a new thing, the level of mistakes might be understandable. But they had an existing system and comparing current with historical is a fairly standard test of billing reasonableness. So both the errors and the hard line taken with their victims are inexcusable. But once again we have a damning report that will get a few days good press — then back to business as usual. The real audit failure is that the powers that be are just playing at things and we have no real means to hold their feet to the fire to make them do their jobs in the public interest.

  • Barbara
    Posted May 31, 2015 8:41 pm 0Likes

    Was the new software program involved in the billing fiasco? If so, who developed/produced the software?

    • Wind Concerns Ontario
      Posted June 1, 2015 9:22 am 0Likes

      Replying for Parker: Reply to Barb: I believe it was SAP that supplied the software for the billing system. I wrote about it a couple of months ago here:

      • Barbara
        Posted June 1, 2015 10:39 am 0Likes

        Supplied from a source external to Hydro One.

        • Barbara
          Posted June 1, 2015 2:07 pm 0Likes

          Wikipedia, HCL Axon, Founded 1994
          Subsidiary of HCL Technologies since Dec., 2008
          “Is a British-based business transformation consulting which sells its services to customers using SAP and Oracle as their Enterprise Resource Planning system modeling tools.”

          • Parker Gallant
            Posted June 1, 2015 2:34 pm 0Likes

            You get what you pay for and Mike Winters (now with Rogers) disclosed the big discount they got. From the 2012 OEB presentation from Hydro One:
            “Jay Shepherd asked if any of the system integrator bidders were related to Vertex or Inergi. Mike indicated that they were not related. Inergi is an affiliate of CapGemini and CapGemini chose not to bid. HCL AXON was selected as system integrator and during the discovery phase Hydro One negotiated software costs for Itron and SAP. Hydro One used Gartner for third party expertise to discern the level of discount that could be expected from SAP. Hydro One was pleased to report that they were able to achieve an approximate 85% discount from SAP.”

        • Barbara
          Posted June 1, 2015 2:30 pm 0Likes

          Wikipedia, Gartner Inc., Stamford, CT founded 1979
          “Gartner uses hype cycles and magic quadrants for visualization of its market analysis results.”

        • Barbara
          Posted June 1, 2015 11:02 pm 0Likes

          People have to go back to the documents posted online to find out what the process was to install the new billing system.
          Seems some shortcuts in the process were taken so this could be done faster?

  • Dr. Jim
    Posted June 1, 2015 8:55 am 0Likes

    Parker is “on the mark” again and without all the overwhelming data. I was a complainant and found the follow-up to be perfunctory. Marin could be great but he allows his ego to get in the way of the objective, leading to less-than-anticipated results. Sucking up to the powers that be vs. calling spades what they really are ultimately makes him the architect of his own misfortune and yet another loss to the people of Ontario who have high expectations (well, at least hopes) of those who profess to protect them. Plus la change …

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  • Greg Latiak
    Posted June 2, 2015 8:52 pm 0Likes

    I am sure that all the folks involved had lovely resumes and wore the most expensive suits imaginable when they took the decision makers out to lunch, or the hunting lodge or where ever the sales pitch and decisions were actually made. But with such a slovenly implementation for a function as well understood as a billing system and as critical it would appear that there was little involvement by anyone who cared. After 50 years in IT and 20 as an independent consultant its folks like this who give the industry bad names. There are so many ways to spell incompetence, regardless of the per diem rate, Makes me crazy(er…)

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