Thursday January 21 2016

Doris Atwijukire must get her facts right on Umeme

By Henry Rugamba

I write in response to a misleading article, Corruption in electricity generation distribution process must be curbed, authored by Ms Doris Atwijukire of the Africa Institute For Energy Governance.
In the article, Atwijukire raised a number of issues but I will restrict my response to the issues that are directly under the mandate or for which Umeme Limited has some accountability.

First and foremost, Uganda does not have the highest tariffs in the region as Atwijukire stated in her article. I have placed for your information and future reference an advertisement in this newspaper that demonstrates the inaccuracy of the article. I think it is imperative that organisations like the Africa Institute For Energy Governance take time and effort to engage the sector for accuracy of information.

Secondly, Atwijukire mentioned faulty Yaka meters, poor billing system and poor quality of service. Once again, making sweeping statements without facts to back them. All Yaka meters are tested and approved by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS). Admittedly, like any equipment, you will find a faulty one and when that happens, we replace them. The tone of the article suggests customers are left to deal with faulty meters, which is not the case.

In 2013, Umeme introduced the eBill as a means of improving the timely delivery of electricity bills. Recently, we launched the Automated Meter Reading technology for our large industrial customers. This is the latest technology that allows our customers and us to monitor daily consumption patterns. Historically, billing was an issue but that is way behind us now as our industrial customers are drawing benefits from this system and our domestic customers have the power in their hands through Yaka, which is a no bill, no meter reading and no visit system.

Finally, you reference ‘Poor Quality of Service’. This can apply in two areas;
1. The quality and stability of supply and
2. Customer service
Since 2005 when Umeme was granted the concession, the company has invested over $350 million in system improvements, substations, power lines and appropriate technology to improve the quality and reliability of supply.

This investment has transformed the sector and seen the reduction of power losses from a high 38 per cent in 2005 to 19.5 per cent in December 2015. We must recognise that after years of under or no investment in the sector, we shall have turbulent moments for some time yet.
I would like to mention the challenges we are having in Mukono area. The highway stretch from Kampala to Jinja has seen unprecedented growth of small, medium and large industrial plants from Namanve through to Lugazi. In order to improve the quality and stability of supply, we are championing a number of initiatives in the sector. For example, we have segregated domestic customers from the industrial customers. We have upgraded the transformers and we have shortened the lines by migrating the industrial customers to new and closer substations.

I am also aware that The Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited is building a new 132KV substation to meet the growing demand of the industrialists moving into Mukono, Mbalala and Namanve in particular. Our customers in these areas are assured that Umeme has and will spare no effort to deliver a supply backbone on which they can build their businesses and our economy.

Meeting our customers expectation first time, every time is at the top of our agenda. Our first responders at the call centre who operate 24 hours / 7 days a week, have access to the latest technology that can handle up to 300,000 calls a month. We have embraced social media and customers can access us on Twitter, Facebook, email or via our WhatsApp number 0772285285.
I want to urge our customers never to hesitate to report whenever we fall short of your expectation. Umeme is committed to and respectful of our customers.

Mr Rugamba is the head of communications, Umeme.