President Yoweri Museveni has directed the Inspector General of Government (IGG) to investigate the expensive electricity tariffs by UMEME which he says are mysterious and unjustified.
In a letter written to the Minister of Energy, Eng Irene Muloni, the President accuses the officials in the Ministry for messing up concessions with UMEME which has resulted into high tariffs for electricity.
He said that electricity distributor, UMEME fraudulently inflated the magnitude of the technical and commercial losses the company had incurred far higher than what the findings of the Auditor General had stated.
According to the Auditor General’a figures of 2005, the technical and commercial losses stood at 28%. However, Museveni notes that the figures was “mysteriously hiked” by a delegation of Ugandans and investors to 38%.
Of the 28% losses, 15% were due to old wires while 13% by non collection of debts by the previous local distributor, Uganda Electricity Board (UEB).
“Since that time, the commercial losses have shrunk to 1% while the technical losses have climbed to 17.3%”.
Museveni wonders why the technical issues have continued to soar despite the fact that UMEME claims to have invested a whopping USD 500 million in electricity distribution infrastructure.
“The alleged investments account for 22% of the price of electricity and the losses account for 26% of the price. Were the technical losses not supposed to have been eliminated,” the President questions the Energy Minister in the March 12 letter.
“Why were they [technical losses] not eliminated and why is the consumer being penalized for that? Investments were made, why then losses?”
It is upon this basis that President Museveni has asked the Minister of Energy to furnish explanations on the “mysterious” investments and losses and why it is the ordinary electricity consumer who continues to bear the burden of footing the costs.
Museveni has also asked the relevant authorities to “look for a cheaper way of modernizing and expanding the transmission and the distribution lines”.
Currently, only 20% of Uganda is connected to the hydro electricity grid. UMEME attributes this gap in access to electricity to the high cost of extending the infrastructure to the coutryside. But even for the Ugandans located in the covered areas, as well as those in the manufacturing sector, the issue of high tariffs remains a concern.