How should customers and company shareholders split the tab for a $580,000 audit of Central Maine Power Co.’s controversial SmartCare billing system?

That’s what the Maine Public Utilities Commission is asking parties to the investigation and associated rate cases in a document filed Monday.

The Liberty Consulting Group of Pennsylvania spent nearly $580,000 to help determine that CMP’s new billing system wasn’t responsible for the high bills many customers were complaining about, but that the company mismanaged the system’s rollout and customer service.

In 2018, the PUC hired Liberty to conduct a so-called forensic audit, following complaints about high bills in late 2017. Liberty reached its conclusions after months of exhaustive review of meter and billing operation and other facets of the operation. The findings informed two separate investigations at the PUC, leading to a $10 million financial penalty against CMP.

But now, the PUC wants input on how to apportion the cost of the audit.

It is seeking comments from parties in the cases, such as CMP, the Maine Public Advocate and CMP Ratepayers Unite, by March 26.

The PUC document breaks down the cost of Liberty’s work. For instance, the largest share was for time spent on metering and billing: $200,953.  A specific review of a meter problem called Fast Clock accounted for $110,019. The SmartCare examination cost $102,546.

Following the March 26 deadline for comments, the parties will have until April 2 to reply.

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