Power theft such as vandalism and illegal electricity connections, together with non-payment of bills are costing Umeme billions of dollars in revenue loss.In East Africa, Ugandan power distributor, Umeme, has stated that these factors not only effect its financial performance but also its service to customers, as the outcome result in high electricity tariffs.The electricity provider noted that the Bugisu sub-region, which is serviced by the Umeme Mbale regional office, remains the leading area in power theft among other regions in the country, The Monitor reported.Umeme regional manager for North Eastern Uganda, Trevor Kigenyi, said: “51% of the losses we incur are from the Bugisu sub-region, which has a high number of power thefts and vandalism. This consequently cripples our expansion and profitability.”

 

Power theft contributes to loss of lives

According to media, Kigenyi said the power distributor loses Shs36 billion ($10.6 million) in power theft from the sub-region alone each year, noting that more than 50 people die annually due to attempts to connect power illegally.In the Manafwa and Bududa districts, losses amount to Shs5.5 billion ($1.6 million), Sironko Shs4.5 billion ($1.3 million), Bulambuli Shs4.1 billion ($1.2 million) and Mbale Shs3.6 billion ($1 million), media reported.Furthermore, it is reported that the region experiences some of the lowest payment collections, with arrears totalling Shs 5 billion ($1.4 million) annually.

Umeme appeals to parliament

In June, it was recorded that power losses attributed to technical and commercial dropped to 19.1%, from 19.2% over the same period in 2015, media reported.However Umeme’s executive director, Sam Zimbe, stated that the company has reduced losses from 38% to 19%, equivalent of $500 million saved in terms of losses.Zimbe added: “Our target is to reduce the losses to 14% by 2018."He highlighted  during his address to members of the Bugisu parliamentary caucus, that they need to work closely with Umeme by sensitising their people and strengthening legislation in order to combat power theft and vandalism.“We have done a lot to refurbish the network in the Mbale area,” Zimbe stressed.[ESI AFRICA]