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UEDCL tackles Bundibugyo electricity challenge

A slanting electricity pole. UEDCL has to correct connection errors of this nature.

Electricity consumers in Bundibugyo and Ntoroko districts want power distributor to meet their expectations

Kampala, Uganda | JULIUS BUSINGE | Imlan Lutaaya, 24, the proprietor of Kuteesa Metal Works, a six months old welding startup, located in Nyahuka Town Council, Bundibugyo District has his eyes on the new power distributor in his area, Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Limited.

“Power has been unstable in this area,” he told The Independent on March 30. Nyahuka, like many other areas in the districts of Bundibugyo and Ntoroko Districts have been under the care of Bundibugyo Energy Cooperative Society (BECS) whose license was not renewed by Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) at its expiry period on December 31, 2020 citing mismanagement.

Lutaaya, who, on average said spends Shs300, 000 on electricity, lost two of his grinders worth Shs 600, 000 due to poor electricity supply.

“I lost them and I could not go to them [BECS] for compensation,” he said, “I hope the new company will offer better service to my business.”

Other electricity users such as Tomas Masereka, an operator of maize, cassava and rice mills, at Kisege village, Karugutu Sub County, Ntoroko district uses fossil fuel because BECS had, until the expiry of their license, not responded to his call.

“I have tried to talk to them to connect power to my business but they keep dodging me,” he said, adding that using electricity from the grid could reduce on his operational costs.

UEDCL Managing Director, Paul Mwesigwa told The Independent that queries for Lutaaya and Masereka and other clients on the Fort-Portal-Bundibugyo-Ntoroko service line, fed by 33Kv power line that starts from Kitumba substation in Fort Portal with a boundary metering point with Umeme Limited, would be dealt with effective this month.

“We are going to invest Shs4.5bn in the coming 18 months to stabilize the network,” Mwesigwa said on March 31. The company is inheriting about 8,000 domestic and commercial consumers from BECS.

“We want to put to an end to all these problems,” Mwesigwa said.  Licensed in 2011, BECS mandate was to generate and distribute electricity to consumers in the two districts.

The move was supported by government through the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) to enable local communities under the cooperative to manage power distribution themselves in a bid to create jobs and related opportunities to the local population.

Lutaaya wants stable supply of power to support his business aspirations in Bundibugyo district.

Mwesigwa said they are leveraging on the experience they have gained over the last 20 years distributing power to other parts of the country to improve on the electricity distribution in the two districts.

Mwesigwa said, competent staff from well performing districts would be transferred to the Rwenzori service area to correct the current mistakes. UEDCL employs 388 staff directly and several others indirectly. It has 45 office stations countrywide.

Currently, the government owned company operates in 61 districts mainly rural areas, outside the Umeme network, and has slightly over 88,000 domestic commercial consumers.

Mwesigwa said, UEDCL is bringing on board innovations including mobile billing system contrary to the manual one that is being used.

The company, like in other places where it currently operates, will also embrace full customer care experience where it will serve clients 24 hours. He added that people in the two districts will also benefit from government’s free connection policy.

BEC’s takeover comes barely four years since UEDCL took over operations of Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited, a private company that was distributing electricity in seven districts of western Uganda in 2017. Since then, UEDCL claims electricity supply has stabilised in the region.

Ziria Tibalwa Wako, executive director at the Electricity Regulatory Authority said, they expect maximum service offering from UEDCL in the new territory, and that they will be monitoring their activities closely.

Why BECS license was not renewed  

  • Poor corporate governance
  • Finance/accounting irregularities
  • Failure to submit annual investment plans
  • Non-payment of certification fees
  • Failure to pay Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited debt of over Shs4billon
  • Failure to submit a safety manual
  • Failure to submit quarterly performance reports
  • Failure to plan, construct/connect more new customers
  • Poor quality of service

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