Why Ugandans will continue to pay exorbitant power tariffs amidst the President’s call not to renew UMEME contract.

In a 12th March 2018 letter to Minister of Energy and Mineral Development Hon. Irene Muloni, President Museveni raised concerns on the UMEME concession and high power tariffs by directing the minister not to renew the contract and that the Inspector General of government to carry out an investigation into the matter.

With such a directive, an ordinary Ugandan would not only think that the president is concerned but also cares about them. Not to further divulge deep, I would like to invite Ugandans into the proceedings leading to UMEME’s contract and transparencies upon awarding the contract. 

In early 2005, five agreements including the power sales and escrow, lease and assignment agreements and the power supply licenses between UMEME and the government for the distribution of electricity across the country. This saw Uganda Electricity and Distribution Company Limited (UEDCL) lease out all her assets to UMEME to enable it to carry out rehabilitation, upgrade and expand on electrification for a twenty year period.

In 2009, merely four years after the contract, a Gen. Salim Saleh led committee was instated to review the contract and reported that the contract was done not in good faith since it favored UMEME at the expense of Ugandans and how UMEME was using faulty meters and as a result cheated on Uganda .This report was not adopted but instead ignored by both the line ministry and the President.

Ugandans felt and watched UMEME’s operations continue without the government’s intervention after the Gen Saleh committee report until 2014 when Parliamentary committee established to investigate their dealings and operations recommended the termination of the Contract. The committee recommendation was received with a wash of reactions among them those in support and against. The legal implication was that Uganda was to pay millions of shillings if was the contract was to be terminated. The question paused to Ugandans was whether the line ministry wouldn’t have adequate measures to save them.

The President’s directive coming after nearly thirteen years into UMEME cheating on Ugandans through exorbitant tariff charges and fares is a high level of deception from the people we entrusted with power.

The prudent role of the Attorney general is to review agreements and contracts on behalf of the people hence protecting the interests of the Ugandan government.

Much as the President’s call is welcome, Ugandans will continue to face the challenge of high power tariffs because of the same arrangements like UMEME.  Ugandans need to know that even with the Bujagali contract signed, they will pay approximately United States cents 12 per kilowatt of electricity generated. This is one of the highest power prices worldwide. This tells us of how we are not about get relieved of the high power tariffs as a country. We have also reached an extent of paying for the power we are not consuming as Ugandans. Imagine with the president’s knowledge, we are paying for thermal power we are not consuming.

There are many of such dealings/ contracts between private firms and the government and Ugandans continue to pay the price. We need to come up and hold the office bearers accountable.  I henceforth call upon my fellow gallant countrymen and women to speak up and save ourselves from exorbitant arrangements between our government and private firms.

Brian K KatabaziAssociate Director, Centre for Energy Governance [email protected].

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