Umeme, Uganda’s main electricity distribution company has condemned the rampant vandalism of power equipment in Fort Portal/ Tooro region.
The Umeme Managing Director, Selestino Babungi says the company has lost transformers, transmission cables, poles and pylons to unethical people.
While commissioning the new Umeme Service Centre in Fort Portal, Babungi said “Umeme is spending at least sh7 billion annually in the region to repair or replace vandalized equipment, vandalism of properties is still one of the major challenges the company is facing since it hinders power distribution in the region. He asked the community leaders to fully support efforts to fight thefts by reporting all persons tampering with the lines in their areas”.
Babungi added that they have embarked on a campaign to combat rampant power theft and vandalising of power infrastructure.
Currently, Umeme is registering a growth of over 3,000 customers every year onto the electricity grid in Fort Portal City.
The City used to rely on power from Kasese but following the construction of the Kanyambaho transmission line, it has improved the reliability of power in the area.
There are also new generation plants that have been developed. They include one in Mahoma in Bunyangabu district, Kagadi and Bundibugyo district, which all feed into the transmission line.
Last year, Umeme criticized on weak legislation as a major impediment towards fighting power theft and vandalism in the country. They argue that the available law does not provide stringent punishments to culprits of power theft or vandalism to equipment from the network, despite the huge losses the habits cause to the company and the country at large.
The Electricity Act gives a maximum penalty of two million Shillings in fines or a three-year jail sentence to offenders convicted of power theft and illegal connection.
The maximum law provides for lighter sentences of caution and community service to the culprits of offenses related to electricity theft. Such punishments are too weak to stop the widespread power thefts and vandalism, according to Umeme.
The company lost at least 40 transformers to vandalism in addition to several other electricity supply infrastructure and illegal connections in the first half of 2018 alone. This translated into an estimated annual average loss of 100 billion shillings to their investments.