Uganda broadens probe in power sector

Jul 03, 2009 02:00 AM

Police has opened investigations into possible collusion in the Ugandan power sector with a view of unearthing the truth about what energy minister Hillary Onek has said were "claims of heavy losses and subjecting government under unfair contracts to pay the power companies, in addition to their revenue, enormous amount of money as subsidy."
The investigation so far focuses on the generator and distributor of power in the country, Eskom and Umeme, both from South Africa. The minister has asked for restrictions to be put on the former Umeme Managing Director Paul Mare until a "thorough investigation is done on his activities at Umeme and the energy sector." Eng. Onek says he is seeking justification for the high power tariffs.

The action being taken in the power sector couldn't have come at a more appropriate time; while power supply has remained unstable for a long time as Ugandans were given excuses, power tariffs and user fees have seen a consistent raise, yet, they are heavily subsidised by the government. A recent World Bank report said the country loses at least $ 50 mm per year in power. This would be enough in a few years to build a completely new hydro-power plant.
All these losses and hefty pay packages for the utility sector managers, yet connections to the national grid remain at a miserable 10 % of Uganda's 30 mm people.

However, it is not enough that the investigation stops only at Mr Mare and his activities. It should be broadened to unearth mistakes, if any, made during the unbundling of the former Uganda Electricity Board and how it has impacted positively or negatively on power distribution in the country.
It is also important that the truth about what initially failed at the Bujagali project, the second dam at Nalubaale and its contribution to the current crisis, the decision and insistence to go for the more expensive thermo power plants for emergency power supply and of course these alleged losses.

Source / The Monitor
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