All new Umeme connections will be pre-paid, says board chairman

Umeme technicians connect customers to the pre-paid system. The utility firm wants to connect the whole country to the new system by 2018. FILE PHOTO

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Power distributor wants to connect the entire country by 2018


All new domestic and small commercial power users will effective next month be connected to the pre-paid metering system, commonly known as ‘Yaka’, as Umeme moves to curb power theft and improve service delivery.
Speaking at the fifth annual chief executive officers summit in Kampala on Wednesday, Umeme board chairman Patrick Bitature said the move that seeks to improve efficiency, will save the company costs related to conversion of old customers from the post-paid to the pre-paid system.
Since the system eliminates people contact, especially meter readers and those that disconnect customers who have not settled their bills, it is also expected to lower operational costs on top of increasing efficiency.
The Yaka billing system is projected to reduce energy losses accrued from bill estimation and non-compliance from customers, which will in turn translate into increased revenue.

Pre-paid billing system was piloted in 2011 in the areas of Kitintale, Mbuya, Mutungo and Luzira and later rolled out in Nateete in 2012.
Outside Kampala, pre-paid metres have also been installed in Nyendo-Masaka. The new move will, however, cover the whole country.
The firm’s media manager, Mr Stephen Ilungole, told Daily Monitor that Yaka now has more than 100,000 customers connected.
Early this year, the power distributor’s general manager, Mr Sam Zimbe was quoted by this newspaper saying it would connect at least 16,000 new consumers to pre-paid meters by the end of this year.

With pre-paid meters, it is believed consumers will not only budget for their power but also pay for what they have actually used as opposed to estimates that have drawn criticisms from consumers for quoting inflated figures—bills.

power connection target and recovery of bad debts

Umeme’s target is to make another 200,000 connections by the end of next year, according to Mr Zimbe while the ultimate goal is to have all electricity consumers converted to the pre-paid metering system by 2018.
Mr Ilungole noted that yaka has helped the firm recover bad debts from customers that had been on the firm’s books for some time.
“Once we convert you to pre-paid metering from post-paid when you have debts, the system recovers a certain percentage of your old debt every time you top up on Yaka,” he said.
This explains why some customers complain about getting fewer units for the amount paid not knowing that the utility firm deducts a certain percentage to recover the money they owe the power company.