Illegal connections encouraged by bribery, says report

Wednesday March 4 2020

Illegal connections: Umeme continues to incur

Illegal connections: Umeme continues to incur losses, especially in slum areas, because of an increase in illegal connections. FILE PHOTO  

By CHRISTINE KASEMIIRE

More than half of people living in Kiyindi, Kiyaaye and Kiwuunya zones in Nakulabye, Kampala have said getting connected to electricity by Umeme is very challenging.

This is according to the Initial Needs Study conducted by Voluntary Action for Development (VAD) financed by Umeme.

The electricity distributor, through the study, sought to understand electricity consuming patters in key communities around Uganda.

While 98 per cent of the 281 households engaged have access to electricity, 53 per cent of them were connected between now and 2010.

“58 per cent of the respondents claim that the connection process of Umeme is difficult.
Community members also said that the legal connection process is long and involves unclear costs which leaves [consumers] with an option of seeking services of the illegal wire persons and field workers,” the report says, noting the illegal connections are secured easily despite being more costly.

The report also found that more than 66 per cent of the respondents in the survey are dissatisfied with Umeme services.

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Mr Enock Ssewakiryanga, one of the researchers from VAD, said one of the respondents has claimed that for six months he had gone without being connected to power despite paying and clearing prerequisites for connection.

This is partly pegged on a process that has been exploited by some officials who ask for bribes from consumers.

Sixty two per cent of the respondents, the report indicates, believe that one of the reasons for the long connection process is bribery which becomes the only viable option if one needs access to electricity.

“We pay money to Umeme and then begin hustling with the people Umeme sends to begin the connection process. The surveyors ask for money and we are not even sure if we must pay them or not,” a quote from a respondent in the report, reads in part.

Expensive power
It was also discovered that 51 per cent of community members feel that there is a mismatch between their incomes and the expenditure on electricity.

For instance, in Kiwuunya and Kiyaaye, the focus group discussions established that one of the main reasons people engage in illegal connections is the high costs yet they earn less and have many basic needs.

The average income raised by the members in these communities is Shs399,419 while the average expenditure is Shs287,551 according to the report.

In addition to the tariff, the high cost of electricity was also attributed to illegal connections perpetrated by Umeme staff and wiremen.

Also it was also noted that some landlords hike electricity charges that currently stand at slightly over Shs750 per unit.

Umeme solution

Pamoja Project, a two year pilot programme spread through 45 slum areas in Kampala.

The five-phase Shs900m project seeks to facilitate new connections, improve the network and develop lasting relationships with communities.

Mr Peter Mwesigwa, the Umeme Pamoja project manager, said 40 per cent of the company losses are on feeders along slum areas with more 47 fatalities registered in the past five years due to illegal connections.

“We want to find ways of collaborating with the areas we serve to find solutions to problems that these communities face,” he explained.

The programme, which will then be rolled out beyond Nakulabye is expected to reduce losses in the scope area by 25 per cent and facilitate the connection and regularisation of 1,500 customers.

Ms Joyce Sebugwawo, the Mayor of Rubaga Municipality division implored the people of Nakulabye to desist from power theft and also urged landlords not to take advantage of their tenants.

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