Umeme losing Shs 9 billion annually due to Mbale power thieves

Umeme losing Shs 9 billion annually due to Mbale power thieves
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A day after it was revealed customers of electricity distributor Umeme Uganda Ltd, may start paying Shs 200 for the first 15 units, up from the current Shs 150 per unit, the power distributor has said it loses over Shs100 billion annually to acts of power theft, vandalism of power distribution equipment like transformers and wires.

A convicted power thief is only liable to pay a paltry Shs600,000 only or a jail term of three years.

And top on the list of defaulters is the eastern district of Mbale which accounts for 10 per cent of the lose, disclosed Ms Florence Nsubuga, the UMEME Uganda Ltd Chief Operations Officer.

“We lose on average about Shs 100 billion as a result of power theft and vandalism,” noted Ms Nsubuga in Kampala during a media dialogue at Golden Tulip Hotel on Thursday.

Umeme loses 60 per cent of power units every year due to power theft.

“We have areas where this vice is actual and one of the areas I want to cite is Mbale which accounts for 10 per cent of the ripple effects of power thefts on businesses countrywide,’ she added.

But Ms Nsubuga insists Umeme’s anti-power theft campaign named wuuyo meaning “that’s him/her” has helped curb the vice. “In Mbale for example, we have engaged local leaders and media on how innocent lives get lost to electrocution leaving a trail of grief, loss and despair to affected families,” she said. “This has brought tremendous change and we have seen losses caused by power theft reduce by 10%.”

It is estimated that between 20 and 30 families in Bududa, Bulambuli, Mbale, Manafwa and Mbale tap power illegally from a single meter and the owners of such meters usually charge those who are illegally tapping the electricity..

Based on the regulator’s approved outgoing connection charges, the firm’s annual loss of Shs100 billon would add 780,000 new homes to the national grid annually.

Umeme Ltd’s latest financial performance shows that it registered a Shs47.5bn net loss during the first half of this year ending June 30, down from Shs54.4bn net profit registered in the same period in 2016.

Umeme is mandated to operate, maintain, upgrade and expand the power distribution network. They are required to retail electricity to customers and to improve efficiency within the electricity distribution system. It’s listed on the Uganda securities exchange (USE) and on the Nairobi securities exchange (NSE).

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