What Uganda Electricity Distribution Company (UEDCL) needs to improve after the expiry of the umeme concession.
Uganda Electricity Distribution Company (UEDCL) will presumably take over the distribution of electricity in the territories previously served by Umeme after the expiry of the ill advised and corruptly executed Umeme concession. Umeme staff were corrupt, inefficient and callous but a public utility run by a corrupt public agency is likely to be worse.
To ensure that customer do not move from the frying pan of Umeme to a scorching fire of a corrupt public service agency we propose a few improvements and safeguards that Uganda Electricity Distribution Company needs to put in place to improve electricity distribution after the expiry of the Umeme concession.
- Prioritize getting metres in the hands of property owners. The most paramount consideration in every situation should be connecting property owners to the electricity grid. Drop this nonsense of applying for electricity. Why does a customer have to apply to spend money on your product. Let a customer walk into a UEDCL shop, present his identification, pay for his metres and walk out with it and a technician to connect him to the electricity grid. A thirty minutes service instead of six Months of agony as one waits for Umeme staff to ask for bribes to connect you expeditiously. Why does a Ugandan have to suffer inorder to pay the government money. So let us drop these idiotic monopolistic tendencies and connect as many Ugandans to the electricity grid.
- Insist that every unit in a multi unit building has its own yaka metre and impose minimum monthly payments. Fraudulent use of electricity accounts for a loss of about thirty to forty percent because Umeme was employing crooks and it did not bother to invest in strong anti corruption measures and audit and oversight systems. One simple way of reducing electricity theft is by requiring every unit in each property to have its own yaka metre and imposing a minimum monthly payment for each unit depending on the unit size. We have invested trillions of shillings in electricity generation and distribution and we should not tolerate theft of electricity by unscrupulous households. Each house hold should pay for the electricity it uses. The minimum payment might motivate households to report Electricity thieves. There should be a procedure to reduce the minimum payment by accepting periodical audits or by installing metres that alert UEDCL when bypassed by unscrupulous staff. When combined with periodical audits the minimum payment will reduce theft of electricity.
- Do not takeover Umeme staff. I heard of an idiotic proposal to absorb Umeme staff. We know that these are children and relatives of the big wigs but you are proposing to employ the same thugs that tortured us under Umeme, the thieves that connected people directly to the electricity grid thus bypassing Umeme metres and the same crooks that made people wait for months for metres so as to induce the property owners to bribe them. Are you going to close your eyes and ignore the incompetence, corruption and inefficiency so as to employ them. They are sufficient unemployment but skilled electricians in the market. Hire your own people, train them and eliminate the corrupt thugs.
- Liberalise electricity connections. Umeme staff should be auditing Electricity connections and consumptions to catch electricity thieves instead of connecting properties to the grid. Let us introduce competition in this field without compromising standards. Let qualified personnel be licensed to carry out these connections using materials that a property owner purchases from UEDCL. Then UEDCL can concentrate on finding thieves and auditing consumption. How can a building having 20 tenants consume the same number of units as a poor tenant in the slums of Makerere? A customer should walk into a shop set up by UEDCL, purchase the essential components for an electricity connection and walk away with a licensed technician to connect him or her to the electricity grid. Uganda Electricity Distribution Company can carryout it’s quality control and auditing later and establish whether the customer is paying for the electricity or was connected directly to the electricity grid.
- Get rid of electricity surveyors. Most of the corruption in electricity connections flows through the surveyors because they have the power to deny a customer electricity. In Uganda once you Grant any one such discretion they will automatically take it as an opportunity to plunder as much money as possible through bribes. I hear the electricity pole is full yet they are connecting new people to it on a daily basis. I hear the earthing was not properly done yet there are those connected directly to the electricity pole without earthing or a metre box. The surveyors have a myriad of excuses to refuse to approve a customer’s electricity connection if a bribe is not paid. If we are to change the system and eliminate corruption, let us eliminate these surveyors. If there is a defect in the customer’s premises let it be corrected by the technician installing the metre so as to meet the standards required by UEDCL. Let us prioritize getting more customers to consume our electricity instead of throwing bureaucratic roadblocks in the face of customer seeking to buy our electricity that we generate at a very high cost. No money should be left on the table.
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