Isimba saga: MPs query govt plan to buy electricity from Kenya

Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa (left) chairs the plenary session at Parliament on August 17, 2022. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • Legislators wonder why government wants to import power yet the country produces more than is consumed. 

The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Thomas Tayebwa, yesterday tasked the Minister for Energy and Mineral Development to explain to the House the status of Isimba Dam and justify why the government wants to buy electricity from Kenya.

Energy minister Ruth Nankabirwa was not in Parliament to explain the deal that sparked off controversies on the floor after lawmakers questioned the government plan to import 60MW from Kenya.

Other legislators, who later talked to Monitor, called for investigation into Isimba shutdown and the decision to switch on expensive thermal generators at Namanve and Kakira.
The sector minister is expected to present a statement today.

The directive followed queries by legislators on the decision by Cabinet to get power from neighbouring Kenya yet Uganda produces more electricity  than is consumed. 

“Umeme has released a load shedding schedule but we were told we have an installed capacity of 1,378.1 megawatts and we consume much less. Isimba is a dam of 183 megawatts and we do not even consume 1,000 megawatts as a country, but already we are rushing to Kenya to import 60 megawatts,” Mr Tayebwa said. 

Cabinet on Monday okayed a proposal to import the electricity to meet the shortfall after Isimba dam was flooded last week allegedly due to a defective radial outflow gate. 

Mr Tayebwa also questioned whether such incidents could have been envisioned in the designs.
“There were many issues in the quality of work. I do not know how it could be designed without anticipating flooding of such nature.  We need to look into these issues seriously,”’ he said.  

Mr John Baptist Nambeshe, the Opposition Chief Whip, said even with Isimba off the grid, the hydro, thermal and solar power would be enough for the country.

“An investigation must be instituted to find out what happened because this could have been shoddy and compromised,” Mr  Nambeshe said.

The Auditor General’s report for June 2021 revealed that the government paid Shs87b to independent power producers for unused electricity.

“We have been paying billions of money for energy and the argument is we must have a standby capability in case of an emergency in the power mix. Where do we now stand with the money we have been paying? These companies would have been handy in this situation,” Mr Muwanga Kivumbi (Butambala) said yesterday. 

Commissioner of Parliament Solomon Silwany warned that the planned outages could affect Mulago National Referral Hospital.  

“Whatever the situation in the power sector, our hospitals should not be load shedded. There are people in ICU,” Mr Silwany said.

Efforts to get an explanation from the Ministry of Energy were futile by press time.

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