PHOTO: Vandalized Transmission Tower in Mukono. The bulk of Umeme customers are not being supplied because of some individuals’ selfish interests of bringing the network down, a big loss to everyone
■ Head of State shocked on how Uganda loses USH 100M in Power theft
■ How Komboa project curbed down power theft
■ Umeme contribution towards electricity sustainability
■ Challenges and support required
BY MOSES MUGALULA
THOSE who were praying for the UMEME contract to be terminated, sorry, we have bad news for you! Chances of UMEME’s contract being renewed are getting bigger and bigger.
This fastest growing news website can now exclusively report that, UMEME is here to stay, following a fruitful meeting at State House between President Museveni and officials of this largest electricity distribution company in Uganda, a utility which is governed by Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA).
The Meeting was attended by ministers and officials from the ministry of Energy, among others.
For starters, UMEME still has a concession running up to 2025. The concession took effect in 2005 when Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Limited (UEDCL) leased out its assets.
We are reliably informed, at the end of State House engagement, The Head of State, looked very much convinced on the job well done by UMEME, a company which distributes 98% of the electricity up to 33KV and it operates under a Concession via a single-buyer model.
The president was happy to note that UMEME is listed on the Uganda Stock exchange and cross listed on the Nairobi Stock exchange.
Officials told Mr. Museveni that the top most shareholder of UMEME is NSSF and other shares were taken by majority Ugandans denying that this company is owned by foreigners as opportunists has been allegedly misleading the Head of State and Parliament.
“It is good to know that UMEME is owned by Ugandans. Let us build the economy together. Industrialisation is a key factor in economic development for it helps in creation of jobs. Go and look into the electricity tariffs.” Museveni reportedly said.
He was very happy to be briefed about an operation code named ‘Komboa’ which was launched by UMEME against power theft. Komboa is a swahili word which means, ‘Redeeming the network from illegal users.’
The Head of State summoned UMEME bosses after he had got reports that UMEME was failing industrialization and as a result, affecting job creation because tariffs were high.
The president made rants against this electricity distribution company on television during celebrations to mark this year’s International Labour day.
A tough speaking Museveni said, “They went behind (my back) and brought something called Umeme. What for! A private company looking for profits! You make it middleman between the generation of electricity and the final consumers, including factories which are supposed to create jobs.”
He said, “The power for industrial parks will go straight from generation point to the industries and not through UMEME. If UMEME dies, that is their mistake.”
At State House, UMEME bosses however started by taking the president through Umeme’s contribution to the financial sustainability of Electricity Sector in Uganda, how they have reduced losses from 38% in 2005 to 17.5% by close of 2020 and have also improved collections from 60% in 2005 to 99% by close of 2020.
“Your Excellency, this progress could easily be wiped out if nothing is done to secure the gains.” UMEME officials told President Museveni.
They denied charging high tariffs to factories and industries tabling evidence about the price per unit to their specific customers.
According to UMEME, they have customers totalling to 1,578,400 and these are in about six categories;
Domestic category are totalling to 1.556,802 customers and average price per unit of electricity in this category is in Ush 21 Cents.
For Commercial category, UMEME has 17524 customers and for them, average price par unit of electricity is Ush 17 Cents.
UMEME has the Medium Industries category. These are 3,126 customers. Aberate price per unit in this category is Ush 15 Cents.
Large industries with tariff code 40 are 49 customers and average price per unit is Shs 8 cents while those with code 30 are 611 customers and for these, price per unit is Shs. 10 Cents.
The last category is that of Street lighting. They have 288 customers and average price per unit is Shs. 11Cents.
MUSEVENI SHOCKED ABOUT POWER (ELECTRICITY) THEFT IN UGANDA
UMEME officials briefed Mr. Museveni that economy loses over 750GWh to power theft annually translating into over USD100M (abut UGX 365BN).
“Mr. President, as you know, Power theft is a criminal offence as per the penal code; Section 283 and Electricity Act 1999; Section 81-87. Power theft causes Transformer failures due to over-loading. Over 300 transformers are lost annually. Power theft leads to loss of Revenue in the electricity sector and increase in power tariffs.” UMEME officials revealed to the President.
They said, this is why they launched Komboa operation so that they curb down those involved in power theft in the country.
They said, “Your Excellence, we don’t carry out such operations on our own. It’s done by officers of Uganda Police Force and all operations are sanctioned the Inspector General of Police (IGP) who we want to salute for being cooperative.”
UMEME officials told the President that power theft is done through a number of ways one being bypassing Domestic Meters (Yaka) or LPU meter and also through direct supplies.
“With Tampering of Meters and Meter Enclosures, this is done by foreign body in LPU meter to reduce Energy (power) measurement, Foreign body in Yaka meter to reduce Energy Measurement, tampered meter Enclosure to allow meter access and fake units on Yaka meter.” Umeme officials told the President on the power theft in Uganda.
They talked about illegal networks and hooking through unsafe connections on the Network.
“This is so evident in underground networks supplying power illegally most especially in busy centres tapping by Plazas, Hotels, Millers, factories etc.” Museveni told.
The president who was taking note of everything was also briefed about Direct hooking on conductors, direct tapping on distribution transformers or inserting resistive components in the meters.
Umeme said, the new connections impasse and Covid-19 have accelerated power theft in the country.
Because of power theft, Umeme told the president, government does not only lose revenue but also lives are lost.
In a 22 pager report Umeme officials gave to the President, (We are told it has been also copied to Parliament), this year (2021) cases of lost lives so far are 11.
This is due to power theft, Network interference, Unauthorised operation and domestic wiring electrocutions (substandard wiring by unauthorised wiremen).
Last year, Umeme recorded 7 death, in 2019 they were 16, 2018 were 39 death, 2017 recorded 15 death, 2016 had 21 and 2015 recorded 33 death.
WHAT WAS MUSEVENI BRIEFED ABOUT KOMBOA PROJECT
It was launched in August 2019 and it entails:
● Police led operations against illegal connections
● Removal of illegal connections and networks
● Arresting and prosecution of illegal power users and illegal network operators
● Recovery of revenue for energy consumed illegally
● Connections legalization through government’s ECP
● Senstizations through media
KOMBOA PROJECT OBJECTIVES
● Improve community security by curbing network vandalism
● Improve community security by curbing transformer overload by illegal loads
● Improve security by securing supply to the CCTV cameras
● Curb electricity related house fires (296 in 2019)
● Promote legal connections through government initiated ECP
● Eliminate illegal operators on the network
● Prevent economic sabotage resulting from power illegal interruptions
● Rescue our customers from the grip of the kamyufu
● Reduce cost of power by reducing loss due to power theft
KOMBOA PROJECT 2021 PROGRESS
● Death on the network have dropped from 39 in 2018 to 7 by close of 2020
● 26,540 illegal connections removed
● 130Km of illegal connections disconnected and removed
● 6,110 new connection applications received
● Drop in losses in month where KOMBOA project is implemented
● Average monthly loss position with Komboa and police is 16.0%. Average monthly loss position with no Komboa with police is 18.2%.
Here are the challenges UMEME is facing as told to the President;
● Uninformed political interference
● Attack on operations (UMEME & Police) teams with stones injuring them. Vans used for operations are damaged.
● Attack on community change champions
● Hostile communities
● Influence peddling by Kamyuufus
● Illegal operators on the network. They impersonate as Umeme operaters
● Appreciation of the problem at hand and how it affects the nation
● Sensitization of the constituents you lead about the dangers of power theft
● Legislation of laws that protect the national electricity assets against vandalism and power theft
● Advocating for more funding for government free connections
● Support of the operations against power theft and Champion the campaigns
In our next story, we will name and shame top politicians/leaders, businessmen, Arcades, factories and schools involved in power theft. We have the list
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