Wednesday November 9 2011

Gen. Saleh wants Umeme renationalised

Gen. Saleh wants Umeme renationalised

Gen. Saleh appeared before the ad hoc committee investigating misconduct in the energy sector. PHOTO BY GEOFFREY SERUYANGE 

By Nelson Wesonga

President Museveni’s younger brother, Gen. Caleb Akandwanaho a.k.a. Salim Saleh, has suggested that the government re-nationalises electricity distribution company, Umeme.

Appearing as a witness before an ad hoc parliamentary committee investigating misconduct in the energy sector, Gen. Saleh said the unbundling of Uganda Electricity Board (UEB), which resulted in the formation of Umeme as one of three separate power entities, was “not well thought-out”.

“The government should repossess Uganda Electricity Board’s assets from Umeme because the privatisation of this sector was not well thought-out. It was cast around our throats,” said Gen. Saleh.

Drawing lessons from the Uganda Revenue Authority and the National Water and Sewerage Corporation, he said parastatals too could be managed and run profitably.

The chairperson of the ad hoc committee, Mr Jacob Oboth (West Budama South, Ind), agreed with him, observing that Ugandans are nostalgic about UEB.

“Under UEB, the losses were estimated at less than 20 per cent, which was the East African average. But when Umeme came on board, this ballooned to, first, 28 per cent, 33 per cent, and to 38 per cent,” said Mr Oboth.

After serving for a short, and what he found to be a frustrating time as minister of state for microfinance, Gen. Saleh chaired the government-sanctioned Interim Review of Electricity Tariff Committee, whose recommendations have not been implemented three years since it released the Report on Electricity Tariff Reduction, September 2009.

He said a senior government official turned around and claimed the report was the “work of unqualified people”, dismissing it as street talk and yet its implementation would have considerably contributed to the lowering of electricity tariffs.

The Electricity Regulatory Authority presently determines power tariffs and recently proposed to raise them to factor in the inflation, a proposal that was roundly rejected by the Oboth committee.

“The chief technocrat in the Ministry of Energy, Mr Kaliisa Kabagambe, said we were an incompetent team, and that what we had produced was street talk. I think he still holds that view,” said Gen. Saleh.

The report had called for a further forensic audit of the sector after it emerged power losses were inflated up to the tune of Shs370 billion.

Gen. Saleh faulted Umeme for not honouring its commitment to reduce tariffs through offering a flat rate to domestic consumers, bulk purchasing for commercial consumers and installing prepaid metres.

The retired and reclusive army officer looked apprehensive throughout his appearance yesterday and had initially questioned taking oath, saying he had been invited to share his report, not to swear.

“I thought I was here to share the findings of my team’s report: Why am I being asked to swear?” he asked.
This prompted Mr Medard Sseggona, (Busiro East, DP) to inform him that for his testimony to be treated as evidence, it should be received under oath.