Parliament Wants Electricity Vandalism addressed before Umeme Exit

Government has been urged to expeditiously address vandalism of electricity transmission networks before the expiry of Umeme’s contract in 2025.

Lawmakers on the Committee of Environment and Natural Resources said the increasing cases of vandalism under the country’s main electricity distribution company’s (Umeme) regime were causing government substantial financial loss that needs to be checked.

“Vandalism on transmission lines and other electrical installations has been on a rapid increase with 175 cases registered between 2021 and 2022,” said Emmanuel Otaala, the committee chairperson.

Otaala added: “For every tower vandalized, the replacement cost is Shs200 million. This causes financial losses since government needs to constantly replace lines, as well as the economy which is dependent on this network for delivery of electricity”.

The chairperson was presenting the committee report on the budget framework paper for water, environment and energy sectors for the Financial Year 2023/2024, before the Budget Committee on Thursday, 19 January 2023.

Buyaga West County MP, Barnabas Tinkasiimire, said vandalism could be an act of expression of disgruntlement by local communities that were neither compensated nor connected.

“You need to investigate and find out what causes vandalism, in most cases it’s because the local people were not compensated during installation, or because of passing power lines on top of people’s homes when they are darkness,” Tinkasiimire said.

Otaala further informed members that Uganda Electricity Distribution Company (UEDCL) has been mandated to take over the portfolio of Umeme immediately after its exit and asked government to finance UEDCL for a smooth transition.

“This calls for strengthening of UEDCL before the takeover. Government should avail the necessary financing to ensure smooth transition and take over from Umeme,” said Otaala.

The energy sector’s budget projection for the Financial Year 2023/2024 totals to Shs1, 211.7 billion.

Otaala said the sector is expected to improve in the Financial Year 2023/2024 with the US$638 million Electricity Access Scale–Up Project (EASP) which commences in April 2023. The project is expected to make one million connections.

“The project will target households, commercial enterprises, public institutions, mining centres and industrial parks; thereby creating demand of up to 500 MW,” said Otaala.

He further noted that the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development was on course with the creation of Uganda National Electricity Company Limited (UNECL). A draft Structure for UNECL has been finalised and submitted to the Ministry of Public Service for onward action, he said.

The Mawogola North County MP, Shartsi Musherure, asked government to look out for more projects that would increase electricity connectivity, cognizant that the one million connections planned under the EASP project is only a ‘drop in the ocean’.

“We need to connect many more people. Instead of bringing one project that you want us to support, what else is there in the ministry that can help us to connect more?” she asked.

MP Gorreth Namugga (NUP, Mawogola County South) urged the committee to exercise its oversight role and check the rampant cases of corruption in the energy sector.

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