First and foremost, when GoU merged REA, the decision was made in consultation with legislators. Why was REA not saved? Until todate, REA staff are still unclear under MEMD. Is it late to restore REA since we have seen the need?
UEDCL has never failed to procure meters! In fact they’ve been procuring. May be the question should be why are they procuring in small quantities?
Its very unrealistic to compare UEDCL with Umeme, on the onset. Why?
In 2005, Umeme chose only Urban and Peri Urban areas, and turned down to operate in rural areas because of low electricity consumption patterns. Them being a private entity, profits were Paramount. All Off grid stations of Moyo, Adjumani and Moroto were picked up by UEDCL. Even after these being connected to the grid, UEDCL has successfully turned them around.
The spirit between the two entities is purely different.
2. Until 2018/19, Umeme has been connecting new customers and billing the regulator, who verifies these investment and ensure that they’re paying. However this model had become extremely expensive. Good news, in 2018, GoU rolled out the free connections policy. All delays in new connections start from here;
3. World Bank gave money to REA to invest in demand acceleration and grid intensification. In this arrangement, all connection inputs were to be procured by REA and handed over to Service providers. Remember, REA was doing aggressive media campaigns, about free power so applications were raining in all offices of Service providers. This caused the deficit of demand and supply on connection materials. There were always few meters available compared to applications coming in. How was UEDCL responsible for this structural problem?
4. After serious concerns, REA agreed to giving money to Service providers to conduct their internal procurements of connection inputs. This was the best approach, but also why do we still have delays with it? 1) GoU moneys can never come in time, that I know you’re aware.
2) All procurements must follow the dictate of the PPDA Act. These procurements can be done in merely weeks, when you have to advertise, receive bids, evaluate, notify the best evaluated, sign contract and roll out eventually. This process is not of days, but weeks. Notwithstanding the fact that some bidder petition the process and hence delay the award of contract even further. So how does UEDCL deal with the PPDA law?
5. The last two years referred to have been clouded with COVID -19 pandemic. In this same period, new connections were suspended temporarily. Is this UEDCL to blame? When the suspension was lifted in 2021, UEDCL was given 5 billion Shillings to procure meters. As I intimated earlier, any procurement must follow due processes. Unfortunately, China, by last year still had restrictions, and most of the connection inputs (affordable) come from China. The norm of doing factory acceptance tests before meters are shipped in had to be done on zoom. These were all new techniques to befit the pandemic. Now, here is the gist of the matter, the procurement of meters in the last two years was amalgamated with COVID and delayed release of funds.
Umeme’ s case is different, because the source of financing is thru the world bank, whilist UEDCL’s is thru the consolidated fund.
Much as the two entities are all implementing the free electricity connections policy.
We need support from policy makers to strengthen GoU agencies. For example, money on free electricity connection policy must be sustainable and assured. We have been receiving applications for new connections on top of the pending connections (2019-2021). And we saying as we connect the 12000 customers, can we have releases every year or quarter so that UEDCL always has meters? Not wait for numbers to accumulate then GoU appropriates resources?
Lastly, there’s need to ask tough questions to technocrats of this free electricity connection policy not the implementors. You won’t get the real answers.
For example, UEDCL never came out to the public to justify the delayed connections even if it were true that the entity was not responsible. We knew REA was a Govt institution and openly fighting them would it only make our government uncoordinated and weak. UEDCL turned it’s back for a lashing on behalf of another government entity. It’s in the same spirit we ask to be done for all GoU entities. Instead of bashing UEDCL, let us appreciate our working and financing environment. In fact, GoU must instead be proud of UEDCL.