Umeme: Fast foods, beauty products, scrap business top power theft

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By Nakawunde Kautharah

The price of power theft and vandalism is paid everyday by the innocent Ugandans. This scheme only benefits handful individuals and businesses particularly fast-food, beauty products and scrap business.

When the transformers are vandalized, the transformer oil is sold as cooking oil and cosmetics. Never mind the harm consequences to the consumers. Utility company- Umeme says it is currently incurring billions of shillings annually to replace the vandalized infrastructure.

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The company says it is losing close to US$ 2m per annum, to power theft and vandalized network equipment.

In January 2016 alone, Umeme says it lost over Ugx. 400m to vandalism of its network distribution equipment in Mbale alone.

In the same month in Mbale again, up to 11 transformers, 42 poles and a total of 49,130 conductors were vandalized, costing the company up to Ugx. 440m in replacements and repairs.

On average, an electric pole costs Ugx. 685,877, conductors Ugx. 5,904 per meter and a transformer between USD 10,000 to USD 20,000.

In the same period, a number of supply cables for the Bweyogerere Industrial Park, Namanve and Mukono were also vandalized. These vises normally take place in the wee hours of the morning.

Consequently, supply to Seeta, Mukono, Kalagi, Mbalala, Katosi, Nagalama, Nakifuma and surrounding areas was interrupted for hours.

‘ ‘The money we are spending in repairing and replacing vandalized equipment would have created a greater customer experience if it is injected in network refurbishment. Power theft and vandalism not only increases the cost of operating the network, it also frustrates our dear customers through prolonged outages. Economically, customers may not run their businesses or light their homes.’’ Reads part of the statement from Umeme.

Umeme says the bulk of transformers are imported and the vandalism negates the company’s network expansion drive, through replacement of vandalized equipment.

The Solution

The untitly company says it has invested heavily in an antipower theft and vandalism which includes: Education and engagement of the general public to safeguard the company’s assets.

The company is also seeking to engage the legislators to amend the laws for stiffer penalties for the culprits. The company is also planning to relocate transformers from isolated to visible public places.

The company is also appealing to the public to report those involved in power theft and vandalism to the nearest Police station or local authorities.

‘This is not just about Umeme; it is about protecting the economy, the country and every power consumer. We thank the Uganda Police for the support to Umeme in investigating and dealing with these crimes but continue to urge the Government to holistically address the underlying problem across the sector.’’

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