A state legislative committee intends to hold hearings in early March on potential flaws in how the Public Utilities Commission handles billions of dollars in accounts for California's major power companies, including PG&E.
Separately, the legislative analyst said Thursday it has been notified by the PUC that it submitted an erroneous set of numbers on how much money is in the special purpose accounts, also known as balancing accounts, that it is supposed to monitor.
"We have been told by the PUC that the information it provided us has errors and is inaccurate," said Tiffany Roberts, a senior fiscal and policy analyst with the Legislative Analyst's Office. "The PUC is in the process of correcting the information it provided us."
The PUC landed in hot water this week after the legislative analyst recommended an audit into its handling of the accounts, which were designed to ensure that customers pay the correct amounts to finance projects and programs mandated by the PUC.
"They can't keep their numbers straight. This is incredible," said state Sen. Jerry Hill, a Democrat who represents an area that includes San Bruno, the scene of a disastrous and fatal natural gas explosion.
The 2010 blast prompted criticism of PG&E for improper procedures and faulty repairs, and of the PUC for lax oversight of PG&E.
The uncertainties and errors linked to the accounts raise questions as to whether PG&E, Southern Cal Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric have been charging their gas and electricity customers correct monthly rates.
In an email response to this newspaper, PUC spokesman Andrew Kotch did not directly comment on the erroneous numbers the PUC provided the legislative analyst, and indicated the PUC doesn't even know the precise number of balancing accounts it oversees. He said the PUC supervises "approximately" 170 balancing accounts.
Roberts, with the Legislative Analyst's Office, said the PUC does not know precisely how many balancing accounts it is supposed to audit.
A state Assembly committee is scheduled to hold hearings March 6 about the PUC's auditing procedures.
"Since the explosion in San Bruno, we have been using the phrase 'culture of complacency' to describe the leadership of the state PUC," Sen. Hill said. "But it really is a culture of incompetence."
Contact George Avalos at 408-373-3556 or 925-977-8477. Follow him at Twitter.com/george_avalos.