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Umeme interventions in Bugisu yielding fruits

By Benon Ojiambo

Added 17th September 2018 02:28 PM

The major objective of the operation is to save lives and to reduce energy losses that the company suffered in this region for over a decade.

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The major objective of the operation is to save lives and to reduce energy losses that the company suffered in this region for over a decade.

Umeme staff in a community interaction

In a recent incident, Sarah Namasobo, 43, and her three-year-old daughter were electrocuted in Nakusi village, Namanyonyi sub-county in Mbale district.

This was after reportedly stepping on a live electric wire in her garden. The incident that cut Namasobo’s life short is suspected to have been caused by an illegal underground electricity connection.

Many incidents of that nature have been recorded in Mbale and other districts making up the Bugisu sub-region. The districts include Bulambuli, Sironko, Kapchwora, Pallisa and Manafwa. Illegal connections in the sub-region cost Umeme an estimate of sh20b annually.

In a move to avert the situation, the company launched operations against illegal power users in the area at the start of last year. The operations that were initially launched in Sironko district, have since spread to other districts in the region including Bulambuli, Mbale, Bududa Manafwa, Kapchwora, Kumi, Pallisa and Budaka.

The major objective of the operation is to save lives and to reduce energy losses that the company suffered in this region for over a decade.

Activities during the operations include sensitising the masses about the dangers of power theft through illegal connections, the new connection procedure, disconnection of illegal connections and arrest of suspected power thieves. More than a year later, “Operation fagiya” has yielded results.

New connections According to Paul Ssempira, the Umeme Mbale district manager, there has been a 30% increase in the number of new connections from 3,541 in 2016 to 8,431 in 2017. Before the stakeholder engagement plan, Ssempira explains that the region was one of the leading contributors to the energy losses the company registered in 2016.

 Umeme MD Babungi

The region contributed up to 10% of the 19% losses that the company registered then. However, partly due to the interventions, the company recorded lower energy loss of 17.2% in 2017. “The region alone registered up to 60% energy losses in 2016, but this dropped to 45% in 2017. The 60% of the losses are categorised into 45% commercial losses (power theft) and 15% technical losses,” Ssempira adds.

The company’s losses also dropped to sh15b power has enabled continuous water supply, lighting for education, operation of health facilities, and general industrial productivity

improve network reliability through a preventive maintenance regime. Other objectives include reduction of losses through closer monitoring of network activities and management of new connections by the zone engineer, improvement of customer service through an aggressive know your customer policy, improved integrity and response times and to deliver customer growth.

Supply reliability Ssempira also notes that there has been an improvement in supply reliability as a result of the four interventions above. Umeme is also reaping big on community ownership

in 2017 from sh20b after the utility intensified its operations against illegal users and vandals. This was achieved through aggressive community mobilisation, driven by a systematic and consistent stakeholder engagement and outreach plan. As part of the grand plan to bring services nearer to the customers, Selestino Babungi, the managing director, committed to opening five new offices in Kapchorwa, Sironko, Bubulo, Pallisa and Kumi. Two new offices in Pallisa and Sironko have since been approved for rollout and are expected to be opened this year.

Located on NYM Building on Outa Road, the Umeme Pallisa service centre is slated to be officially opened on May 31. “The overall goal of the plan is to implement the network asset management zoning model. This will carry two main interventions of network maintenance and new connections insourcing,” Emmanuel Nume, the zoning project manager, says.

He explains that specifically, the project objectives are to improve cost efficiency through in-sourcing of new connections, better materials management, efficient utilisation of vehicles and improve network reliability through a preventive maintenance regime.

 Other objectives include reduction of losses through closer monitoring of network activities and management of new connections by the zone engineer, improvement of customer service through an aggressive know your customer policy, improved integrity and response times and to deliver customer growth.

Supply reliability Ssempira also notes that there has been an improvement in supply reliability as a result of the four interventions above. Umeme is also reaping big on community ownership and advocacy, political buy-in and support, increased legal connections, reduced fatalities, improved awareness and sensitisation of the dangers of illegal connection and improved economic activities due to supply reliability.

The firm is also enjoying reduced vandalism of the transformers and other network infrastructure, reduced social unrest and riots arising from delays to replace blown equipment

damaged due to power theft and improved security of neighbourhoods arising from intermittent supply due to power thefts.                                              

“Reliable supply has enabled continuous water supply by National Water and Sewerage Corporation, lighting for education institutions, operation of health facilities in our territory, increased working hours and general industrial productivity,” Ssempira says.

Mindset change
In 2016, political leaders from the Bugisu sub-region, who had been accused of supporting the illegal connections, started working with the power distributor on a campaign to sensitise the public against the dangers of the vice.

This also opened up the channels of communication with communities, as different levels of leaders and residents begun to take safety seriously. “Communities now invite our outreach teams to go and talk about safety and dangers of illegal connections or call for operations against those that are putting the lives of their children at risk,” Ssempira added.

Other initiatives Outreach programmes and stakeholder engagement were carried out in 2017, focusing on customer service, product knowledge and new connections. Umeme has 37 service centres across the country.

Some of the service centres in the rural areas stretch over a radius of up to 80km, which makes it difficult to access some of the services. In 2017, customer outreach programmes were rolled out in the rural areas with the aim of bringing services closer to customers including; education on dangers of power theft and vandalism, safe use of power, energy efficiency tips and e-payment options.

Mobile service desks were set up in high growth areas and potential customers were proactively engaged to connect electricity to their loss reduction and minimised power supply interruptions. Zonal service centres were opened to improve services in the high growth areas in Gayaza-Magigye, Kasana- Luwero and Wabigalo.

CSR initiatives:
Umeme health camps Umeme sank more than sh160m in 2017 for two health camps at Busia Health Centre IV and Budadari Health Centre IV. The initiative was conceived from the power utility’s philosophy of supplementing the government’s efforts in key sectors of energy, health and education. The initiative was also meant to help the firm forge a relationship with the communities in which it operates.

“We are always proud to be associated with the communities we serve. It is gratifying to see over 1,000 people come in to access free medical checkup, treatment, counselling and referrals. Working closely with health experts, Umeme will continue to get closer and reach out to disadvantaged communities in the areas where we operate,” Babungi pledges.

 “By reaching out to the community on matters of their health and safety, we hope they will appreciate the safe usage of power by legalizing their connections and save lives,” he adds.                                              

 

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