Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | More than 4,000 people have been arrested in the ongoing crackdown on power theft, conducted by police and electricity distributor Umeme.
The operation dubbed “Komboa” order redeem, was launched in Kampala in March before being rolled out to other regions to reduce the power loss levels. According to Umeme, the losses had steadily increased from 16.9 percent of the total power being consumed in June 2019 to 17.4 percent in June 2020.
The company says this increase was because more people were making illegal connections and other illegal activities during the lockdown when Umeme staff could not effectively conduct surveillance. Also, there was an increase in domestic demand as more people were staying home, leading to more illegal use. By March 2021, the losses had risen to 18.9 percent, prompting the operation.
Power theft and illegal connections are attributed to the high cost of connections and cost of maintenance or consumption, as well as corrupt technicians in the sector. “Unlawful connections not only lead to death but also cost the economy the much-needed electricity to power businesses and light up communities in which we operate”, says Umeme spokesman Peter Kauju.
Since March, the operation has been spread from Kampala to Jinja, Bugisu and Bukedi sub-regions.
“Since inception, Umeme together with the Uganda Police Force have discovered more than 5000-metre anomalies and disconnected close to 3,700 direct supplies and arrested over 4,000 people, says Christine Namutebi, Umeme Metering Services Manager. More than 18,000 metres countrywide have been checked and 5000 anomalies discovered.
“Many of them have been able to settle their dues and connected using the proper channels,” she said.
According to the police, many people who die due to electrocution due to illegal connections are not reported, with many of them buried at night especially in the Bugisu area. And most of them are not responsible for the illegal activities but victims.
By the end of April, the power losses had slightly been reduced from close to 19 percent in March to 17.9 percent, while electricity sales on the domestic front increased by 4 percent in the period according to the records.