Red Flag! Deputy Speaker Anita Among Orders COSASE To Probe Scandalous UMEME As Concession Renewal Fuels Doubt

The Deputy Speaker of Parliament Rt. Hon. Annet Anita Among has directed the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) to investigate scandalous UMEME’s conduct and present a report on the findings as soon as possible.

Among, via her official Twitter handle on Tuesday said, “I am directing COSASE to investigate the conduct of Umeme, allegations of mistreatment of citizens, extortion and claims of excessive use of force in enforcement.”

Over the years, there have been many allegations against it, including harassment by its officers on duty, multibillion scandals involving the procurement of counterfeit Yaka, and endless complaints over high taxation, and incompetence.

Arising from the public outcry on the conduct of this electricity distributing company, Deputy Speaker wants it investigated by COSASE.

Some of UMEME’s current scandals (a few mentioned)

In 2018, UNBS Executive Director Dr. Ben Manyindo revealed that findings from a verification exercise conducted by the standards making and enforcement body from June to December 2017 indicated that over 90 percent of the Umeme yaka power meters checked were defective.

The exercise involved checking 6500 meters installed at consumer premises.

Only 500 meters passed the compliance test, representing a paltry 7.6 percent with 6000, representing 92.4 percent flanking.

In February 2020, Members of Parliament on Committee of Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) asked government to recover Shs230b from Umeme, the national power distributor, from the assets they have been using without burdening consumers.

However, Mr Selestino Babungi, the Umeme managing director, said they do not owe any money to government.

Mr Babungi said the money was accrued after Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) declined to include the cost in the tariff in 2013 for them to recover it from the customers on behalf of government.

In the same year, COSASE tasked officials of Umeme Uganda Limited, over circumstances under which the power distributor received Sshs100 billion from the Ministry of Finance.

Hon. Paul Mwiru raised a red flag over an audit query where Umeme is said to have withdrawn the whole amount from the Umeme escrow account yet it was eligible to withdraw only shs65 billion that was owed to them.

According to the report, Umeme withdrew the whole Shs100 billion yet the government only owed it shs65 billion in arrears of 60 days.

“You helped yourself to money that was over and above what you were actually owed by the government without any explanation. You have thrown UEDCL into a position where it is struggling to recover the money,” added Mwiru.

However, Umeme Managing Director, Selestino Babungi stated that the government was heavily indebted and that the payment was made by Ministry of Finance directly to Umeme.

Dissatisfied MPs called for a verification of the report of the Auditor General on the issue and all respective entities involved.

In June, 2021, during the State of the nation address, President Museveni hit out at power distributor Umeme Uganda Limited, dismissing the company as a mistake that the country must get out of.

The President blamed Umeme for the increased cost of electricity and the disruptions in the industry sector, urging that the country will get out of this mistake.

“The cost of electricity is distorted by the mistakes committed by some of our actors without my knowledge. Especially the mistakes of Bujagali and UMEME,” Museveni said.

“The high cost is caused by these. We shall see how to get out of this mistake,” he added.

Museveni vowed that the government will use other means to distribute electricity to some industrial parks and eliminate UMEME to avoid further mistakes.

“For some industrial parks, we shall supply power straight without going through UMEME,” he said.

Museveni noted that EMEME was failing industrialization and as a result, affecting job creation because electricity tariffs were high.

“They went behind and then brought something called Umeme. What is this for? A private company, looking for profits, you make it a middleman between the generation of electricity and the final consumers, including the factories which you want to create jobs. What’s this, what are you looking for?” the president said.

The president said power for industrial parks will now “go straight from generation,” and be “transmitted direct, not through Umeme” — a threat that denies the utility significant revenue from a segment of bulk consumers of electricity.

Oh, Umeme will collapse…if it collapses, my mother died and I buried her. Also, Mr. Kaguta died. People die and society goes on. So if Umeme dies, that’s their mistake,” President Museveni added.

However, this wasn’t the first time President Museveni was expressing his disgust at Umeme.

In March 2018, he wrote a letter warning the Ministry of Energy against renewing Umeme’s concession arguing that the country should be looking for cheaper ways of modernising and expanding the distribution and distribution lines.

Museveni tasked the Ministry of Energy as well as Ministry of Finance to furnish him with details regarding financial reports by Umeme’s of the losses the company was incurring and the investments the entity had undertaken in the country.

Umeme took over the supply and distribution of electricity in Uganda from Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Limited (UEDCL) under a 20 years

It’s power distribution concession is due to expire in March 2025 having started in March 2005 when the South African company took over electricity distribution in Uganda and the policy has a provision for negotiations into a concessionaire to start three years to the expiry of its concession and apply for a renewal of the concession.

However, the talks to renew the contract between Umeme and the Government have not yielded fruits since 2018.

Some of Public Response to Deputy Speaker Anita’s tweet: 

 

 

 

 

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