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KPLC team ‘steal’ meters from a village in Elgeyo Marakwet county

Bernard Ngugi, CEO Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC)

On May 5th 2020, newspaper reports showed that the Last Mile Connectivity Project by Kenya Power & Lighting Company plc (KPLC) had failed.

There were forceful seizures of meters from rural folks by KPLC staff who couldn’t afford to pay for electricity.

One wondered how the World Bank and African Development Bank (AfDB) had failed for Jubilee Regime’s charm and ‘digital govt’ PR.

That is one part of seeing it, the other is that confession by John Perkins (book Confessions of an Economic Hitman) that such things happen so as to place countries under debt so that they can be subservient to western whims.

In May 2020, Kenya Power regional managers who spoke to a local media house in confidence agreed that they had been forced to seize several meters from rural households who are unwilling to pay for power or could not afford it.

“Some did not need power in the first place, so when they have Sh100 for example, they would rather spend it on food. Others simply thought it was completely free and have never bought tokens after the free units were exhausted. They barely even understand that the meter is supposed to be paid for in instalments yet they signed agreements,” said a manager based in the Eastern region.

The theft of power in rural areas has become a lucrative business run by former Kenya Power staff and electricians contracted in the World Bank-funded Last Mile Connectivity Project.

This might be the same reason that villagers in Elgeiyo Marakwet recently saw their meters carted away in broad daylight as narrated below.

Hi Nyakundi,

 Am requesting you to post this.

 There is this village in Elgeiyo Marakwet county, Keiyo South (stake 1) village.

 Thieves came and stole all kplc prepaid meters in a broad daylight in the whole village while people are watching.

 They were pretending to be KPLC agents.

 I was not at home.

 I don’t know how my people are so primitive that they were seeing meters being taken away without raising alarm

The economic survey by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics

Despite the rural electrification programme bringing more people to the grid,KPLC continued to make losses.

“The number of customers connected under the rural electrification programme expanded by 5.8 per cent to 1.41 million in 2018/19 from 1.33 million in the 2017/18, mainly drawn from domestic and small commercial categories. However, revenue realised declined by 9.1 per cent from Sh11.84 billion in 2017/18 to Sh10.77 billion in 2018/19,” the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics wrote in the report in May 2020.

It essentially shows that Kenya Power connected 77,047 more customers in rural areas during the year but collected Sh1.07 billion less.

This compounds a problem the firm has been battling since heightened connections before the 2017 General Election, a move that has pushed it deeper into a financial hole, with an estimated one million households supplied with power and prepaid meters fitted but who are neither consuming it nor even bothering to pay for it.

Idle gadgets, however, mean that Kenya Power has increased the cost of maintaining additional lines that do not contribute to growth in revenue despite consuming huge costs in field inspections and even recoveries to enforce payments.

Customers were connected to power free of charge but are expected to pay Sh15,000 through purchase of tokens within two years.

The economic survey also reported reduction in sales in rural areas, with a 5.4 per cent drop recorded to 569GWh in 2019 largely due to the availability of stolen electricity.

Kenya Power has been in a race to increase the number of household connections, in line with the Jubilee administration’s election pledges and ambitious plan to have every household connected to the grid by 2022.

Dwindling revenues from the plan will continue to pile pressure on Kenya Power, which is now asking for an upward adjustment in tariffs to save itself from distress as the government focuses more on network expansion to unconnected rural areas.

The utility firm, which posted a 91.98 per cent decline in net profit to Sh262 million from Sh3.27 billion for the financial year to June 2019, is also said to be pushing for better rates for future power purchase agreements as the cost was one of the reasons its bottom line was depressed despite rising revenues to Sh133.1 billion on more electricity sales.

 


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