Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Umeme, Uganda’s main electricity service provider has started building ties with local leaders in greater Kampala to curb power theft and vandalism of transmission lines and transformers.
The plan was unveiled in a meeting between Umeme officials and local council one-LCI leaders from Kampala East Umeme District which covers the areas of Kireka, Naalya and Ntinda areas. During the meeting, Umeme officials emphasized that grass root leaders can easily identify and report criminals who vandalize their infrastructure or steal electricity.
Rose Oyela, the Regional Manager for Kampala East Umeme District asked the leaders to lead a campaign against vandalism within their jurisdiction. She argued that failure to control vandalism had fuelled power losses.
Last year, Umeme said it spent over 600 million Shillings to replace 18 transformers that had been vandalized in Mukono district alone.
Altogether 39 fatalities were registered across the country, most of them caused by illegal hooking on the network, power theft, vandalism in house wiring, electrified washing lines and illegal activities along electricity way leaves corridors.
Oyela said power loss averaged 13 per cent in greater Kampala. The theft was more pronounced in slum areas like Kalerwe, Bwaise and Kawempe. However, Oyella Is optimistic that such losses will be addressed through building ties with grass root leaders.
The leaders welcomed the initiative but urged UMEME to protect whistle-blowers. One of the meeting participants recollected an incident when he alerted Umeme about power thefts in his area, but the officials uncovered his identity during a consequent operation.
The leaders added that Umeme should explore means of empowering them to handle minor incidents such as disconnecting illegal networks.
Kwarisima Hilda, a Police Officer from Bweyogerere said they have on numerous occasions arrested people with Umeme Identification Cards or riding Umeme motorcycles vandalizing transformers.
But Oyella tasked leaders to always ask Umeme people who visit their areas for identification in order to control fraud.