Yaka billing system overloaded, customers to pay for upgrades

Thursday August 20 2020

Some customers have had to wait for hours or days before they can receive Yaka tokens after paying, especially through mobile money. PHOTO | FILE

Umeme has said its pre-paid billing system, commonly known as Yaka, is overloaded due to the high customer numbers.

In notes published along the company’s half-year results, Umeme reported that sector regulator - Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) had already given the power distributor a go ahead to upgrade the billing system, which it said was facing challenges.

“In light of the current challenges with the pre-payment vending environment, the regulator has approved investment in the upgrade of the system,” the notes read in part.

Mr Selestino Babungi, the Umeme managing director, told Daily Monitor yesterday customers had overwhelmed the system that was installed in 2011.

“The current customer number is higher than the capacity of the system. The system is 10 years old and is due for replacement. Now we have 1.5m customers. 10 years ago, we had a few thousand customers,” he said, noting Umeme was in the process of inviting bids and would in then determine how much it will need to invest.

Who will pay for it
Ms Diana Nambi, the ERA principle communications officer, said the investment cost could not be determined as yet, because while the Authority approved the activity, the amount is not yet approved.


However, she said, Umeme customers will be required to pay for the investment through the tariff.

“The vending system upgrade will be purchased using tariff money. But it is treated as a non-network asset, so it will not earn Umeme a return on investment,” she said.

For the past few weeks or over a month, Umeme has received a number of complaints from customers over failure of the Yaka billing system.

A spread of customers from different areas and on different occasions have expressed frustration via social media over failure to get paid up tokens or failing Yaka metres.

Daily Monitor could not obtain a documented list of complaints but a number of grievances have been shared on different media domains with some stretching as far back as January.

This in essence means that whereas some customers’ money is received by Umeme, some have not been able to get the service they have paid for.

Umeme has previously indicated that they were experiencing delays in generating Yaka tokens due to a system interruption.

The power distributor, which currently has 1.5m customers connected to the grid has 95 per cent of them on the prepaid billing system with only 94,779 still on postpaid.

In its half year results released early this week, Umeme said the billing system would be upgraded.

“The upgraded system is expected to provide a better service experience to our customers through increased capacity, stable and faster throughput,” Umeme said.

Not first time
This is not the first time the Yaka system, which is said to have cost Shs516b has failed.

In 2018, the system failed to work for days, leaving many customers without electricity.

At the time, Mr Sandor Walusimbi, the then Umeme head of communication and marketing told Daily Monitor, they had experienced a system overload that had slowed down the process of buying tokens.