Vandals steal system installed to track theft of electricity assets 

Theft of electricity assets has been growing over time. PHOTO | courtesy   

What you need to know:

  • As a measure to curb vandalism and theft of electricity equipment, a pilot security system was installed on transmission lines. However, the Auditor General noted the system was itself vandalised.

Suspected vandals vandalised a security system that Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL) had installed on transmission lines in a pilot project to curb theft of electricity equipment. 

In details contained in the Auditor General’s report for the period ended June 2021, it was reported that UETCL had grown increasingly concerned over the widespread vandalism and theft of electricity equipment thus erecting to pilot a security system, which was, however vandalised.
“Management installed a pilot security system on transmission lines, however the system was itself vandalised,” the Auditor General said, noting that UETCL continues to engage security agencies and community policing to protect electricity installations. 

The report also indicated that vandalism and theft of electricity equipment has become a nationwide problem costing UETCL billions of shillings in replacement and repair of various equipment. 
“This is a nationwide vice that has been brought to the attention of Cabinet and security agencies,” UETCL told the Auditor General in its submissions in which it also noted that vandalism has impeded continuity and reliability of electricity supply as well as straining company resources, which have to be deployed to replace vandalised items and associated works. 

For instance, according to the report, UETCL, during the period ended June 2021, spent Shs1.6b to replace and repair vandalised equipment with at least Shs500m used to purchase galvanised angle bars to “replace vandalised tower members”.
The report also noted that at least Shs1.5b was, during the period, used in replacement costs for assorted transmission line items vandalised between 2017 and 2021. 

UETCL is charged with bulk evacuation of power through high voltage lines of between 220 kilovolts and 132 kilovolts. 
The company majorly uses steel towers for the construction of the transmission lines. 
UETCL has previously blamed vandalism and theft of electricity equipment on the growing demand for scrap. 

Energy Minister Ruth Nankabirwa, has previously suggested that government should establish a joint team composed of police and the Uganda People’s Defence Forces to crack down on the increasing rate of electricity equipment vandalism.
Vandalism has also been a factor in failure to transmit power to some areas, given that in some cases infrastructure breakdown translates into loss in revenue. 

Umeme’s experience with vandalism           
Last week Umeme, during a briefing of security experts in Mbarara City, noted that vandalism of electricity infrastructure in western Uganda had hit alarming levels with vandals stealing more than 133 kilometres of cable in just 12 months and causing unprecedented disruptions in electricity supply. 
Vandalism of electricity infrastructure, according to Umeme is more rampant in western followed by east and northern Uganda. 

Mr Selestino Babungi, the Umeme’s managing director, said in 2021 alone, the electricity subsector had lost more than Shs26b in stolen copper wires, vandalised transformers and poles, among others, noting that whereas Umeme is committed to furthering government’s agenda to increase the proportion of households accessing electricity, resources that would have been spent on expanding the grid are being diverted to replace vandalised and stolen assets.