State lawmakers moved ahead today with plans to audit the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's troubled rollout of its $162 million billing system.
The audit was approved unanimously by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.
Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Pacoima, who requested the audit, said the system issued tens of thousands of inaccurate or late bills to customers and went over budget by more than $100 million.
Bocanegra said he was "pleased" by the committee's decision to green- light the audit, which is expected to begin in June and be completed within the year.
"The system has been a failure from the start and this will help to bring much needed transparency and long overdue answers to what went wrong," Bocanegra said.
DWP spokesman Joe Ramallo said the utility is "committed to fixing the billing problems" and welcomes the deeper look at billing system overhaul.
DWP's general manager, Marcie Edwards, issued an apology during her first day on the job on March 3, telling customers the billing system hiccups were "unacceptable."
Edwards this month unveiled a web page to keep DWP customers updated on the utility's efforts to fix the problems.
A "mayor's dashboard" on the site shows customers were still being put on hold for an average of 25-29 minutes during the first three weeks of February.
Mayor Eric Garcetti this week vowed to turn around the department's customer service and billing problems and repair ratepayers' trust in DWP.
He said the utility plans to add 50 more customer service representatives starting April 1 to assist customers.
While DWP has cut wait times and taken other steps to address the billing issues, Bocanegra said "hold times are still nearly half an hour and I still have constituents receiving incorrect bills."
Bocanegra said there needs to be "an honest accounting of what went wrong" and a "plan to ensure that an error like this doesn't happen again."
The state's audit will look at how DWP awarded contracts when developing the billing system, the utility's oversight of the contractors' work and the impact of the new system on DWP's monthly revenues since it went live in September.
It will also look how many customers received late and inaccurate bills, and how many wrongly received shutoff notices or service terminations.
The audit will also compare the initial budget with the final cost of the system, examine when DWP learned of any added costs and why budget increases were necessary.
--City News Service