Govt fears large part of power distribution network is inefficient 

The Auditor General report notes that a number of high voltage lines have been constructed across roofs of residential houses. Photo / File 

What you need to know:

  • An audit noted that half of transformers on sampled distribution lines in northern and eastern Uganda were not in satisfactory condition

The Auditor General has indicated that nearly “half of the transformers on five out of the 13 distributions lines sampled in northern and eastern Uganda under the Umeme distribution network, were not in satisfactory condition, thus risking equipment and lives of people working around such facilities. 

In details contained in a report on management of electricity distribution assets under Umeme, the Auditor General noted that distribution lines had faulty surge arrestors that compromised the safety of equipment and oil leakages bypassing high-tension and low voltage protection systems, thus rising the risk of equipment damage and fire hazards. 

The report also noted that Umeme was dealing with power quality issues, noting that the long feeder lines along Mbarara North - Kabale 33 kV and Ishaka–Rukungiri 33 kV, which are 483 kilometres and 467 kilometres, respectively, suggested a greater voltage drop, which raises the possibility of faults and failures along the line because of higher power losses.

Umeme leased assets of Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Limited (UEDCL) under a 20 year concession, which expires in March 2025. 

Government has already indicated Umeme will be required to hand back the assets to UEDCL at the natural end of its concession. 

The Auditor General also noted defects on the UEDCL-managed network of Muhanga, Kamwezi, and Kabale, which impact supply reliability to the Mbarara North-Kabale 33Kv line under the Umeme network. The report also noted that efficiency and dependability of the network had been impacted by vandalism of stay assemblies, conductors and underground cables at the Mutundwe-Masaka West and Mbarara North-Ibanda lines.  

“I advised the accounting officer to ensure that Umeme addresses the observed deficiencies and conducts necessary repairs, maintain, install, and modify the distribution network in accordance with the terms of the lease and assignment agreement,” Auditor General John Muwanga, wrote.  

However, government has recently indicated that Umeme’s investments in the grid will be regulated to limit the growth of the cost of the buyout at the expiry of the concession. 

Umeme, under the concession is required to repair, maintain, install, retire and modify some assets, the cost of which is recovered through tariffs. 

However, government will have to pay for all investments that would not have been recovered through tariffs at the time of the expiry. 

Government recently indicated it would set up company to take over the distribution function from Umeme. 

“Growing demand for industrial space has led some landlords to increase their asking rental rates, especially within the traditional Industrial area. This has not been favourable for most tenants as they continue to drive harder bargains for the same forcing businesses to look for alternatives,” the report reads.

Occupational risks

The Auditor General also noted that a number of safety and occupational risks across the grid had been discovered with multiple high voltage lines (33 kilovolts) constructed across roofs of residential houses in Ibanda-Kazo-Rushere while voltage drops were found on a number of powerline, among which included Kabale-Kisoro, Ibanda-Kazo-Rushere, Kitgum-Palabek-Padibe-Lokung, Opuyo Moroto, and Masindi-Waki-Buliisa.