Umeme loses Shs1.5b to vandals

By Eronie Kamukama

Kampala. Over the past weeks, residents of Mpuumu, Mukono District woke up twice to a power outage. However, an investigation by Umeme revealed unknown people had attempted to vandalise the area’s transformer.

Last Sunday, a power blackout plunged Mpuumu again but this time, the transformer had been completely destroyed.
“They pulled the transformer to the ground and left scrap. They took all the transformer oil,” Mr Joseph Ndawula, an engineer from Umeme, said yesterday.

This is the manner in which transformers at Sonde-Kikulu, Kiwango-Bukerere, Kiwanga, Nakisonga, Mukono Electoral Commission, Mukono Police and Mpooma have been vandalised since May this year and 500 customers out of 74,000 have been affected.
Explaining the incidents, Umeme said the vandals are interested in copper and oil from the transformers.

The trend from previous years indicates that the stolen copper is exported while the oil is sold to welding workshops, heavy machinery plants, medical oil and cosmetic manufacturers. In some cases, the oil is used to cook.

Tackling this vandalism was yesterday morning at the centre of a discussion between district administrators and security personnel in Mukono after it emerged that power distributor Umeme has lost over Shs1.5b in the last six months.
“The trend is really bad, the number seems to be going overboard now. 2016 was our worst where we lost ten transformers in Mukono. 2017 we lost six and this year it started in May and in two months, we have surpassed the numbers for 2017,” Mr Jason Muwaza, the Mukono district manager Umeme said.

In Mukono alone, there are 400 transformers and nine transformers have so far been vandalised while a sum of 41 transformers have been vandalised countrywide since January.

Replacing one transformer costs about $10,000 (Shs37m) and a report from Mr Muwaza showed that these costs are having an effect on the quality of power supply so far.

“There are undesired outages created and when a transformer is vandalized, we will only be able to restore supply after 72 hours. A lot of people rely on the service to do business that has its impact financially. It curtails the delivery of services say to other areas that need refurbishment,” Mr Muwaza said.

Mukono district resident district commissioner Mr Nasser Munulo pinned the vandalism on former UMEME staff, explaining that ordinary Ugandans can hardly understand the technicalities of a transformer. But Umeme has dismissed the claims saying there is no evidence to support such a perception.
Umeme further said the power sector today has many skilled electricians who understand the transformer craft and distanced itself from the theft given that it subcontracts companies to do the distribution.

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