Even after the non-revenue water management (NRWM) unit and anti-theft wing of the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) unearthed cases of rampant theft in the central region, no KWA official has been held accountable.

As many as 305 consumers have been issued notices since July 2012 for various offences such as theft, meter tampering and illegal hose connections. While KWA officials agree that consumers, in most cases, did not commit the theft by themselves, all reports so far have penalised only the consumers.

Assistant executive engineer K.M. Siddique, who heads the NRWM team in the central region, said they had sent 68 reports to the KWA main office citing various offences.

He said their powers were limited to drawing up cases and collecting revenue from consumers. Any other action had to be taken by the main office, he added.

The NRWM team had found cases of faulty meters and incorrect meter reading in which the meter reader could be held responsible. However, most thefts were brought to the notice of the authorities by the meter readers, said Mr. Siddique.

KWA rules mandate that the meters be checked by top officials. Meter inspectors and assistant engineers should check at least 10 per cent of the meters in their area. However, this is not often followed. A meter reader in the city, who did not want to be named, admitted that meter readers were, in many instances, hand in glove with consumers. However, he said, there were many cases in which officials turned a blind eye to illegal practices that were reported.

A meter reader finds problems in about 30 per cent of the meters every day. On an average, 25 per cent of the meters were inaccessible, said the meter reader.

Meters should be kept near the main entrance of the building where the official could locate it easily, he said. There have been instances when water is stolen through a valve before it reaches the meter that may be located at the back of the house. Hence, the meter records only very little of the actual consumption. Such faults cannot be detected by the meter reader alone.

The meter reader could report to higher authorities, but action was seldom taken, he said.