23 May 2018

Uganda: Government Pays Shs1.3b for Ghost Power Meters

Kampala — Government paid Shs 1.3b to 'ghost' power meters held by Umeme in various ministries and agencies between 2005 and 2013, Daily Monitor has established. It was also revealed that effort has been made to recover the money with MPs warning of a "syndicate" in the energy sector to steal money.

The revelation was discovered as Parliament's Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) started an audit of the energy sector amid concerns of abuse of money in the different agencies in charge of the sector.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers conducted an audit on the government power accounts held by Umeme between March 1, 2005 and February 28, 2013, after the Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Limited (UETCL) raised red flags over government accounts during that period.

The audit discovered that the Uganda Police had 22 'ghost' meters, Ministry of Defence with 20, Mulago Hospital had four, State House had one and Directorate of Public Prosecution with one "ghost" meter.

enShs1.3b was paid to those accounts between 2005 and 2013 and an up-to-date audit to establish whether the accounts are still being paid was not readily available to MPs during the hearing yesterday.

Indebted government agencies

Government agencies have debts running up to Shs27b with Umeme as of April 30, 2018 raising concerns that the Shs27b debt bill may have been accumulated from 'ghost' meters.

The PriceWaterhouseCoopers report was filed with UEDCL in May 2014 but the agency insisted that the report be kept highly confidential, a pre-condition that MPs warned raises questions of transparency at UEDCL.

Umeme's power distribution concession is due to expire in seven years (March 2025) and President Museveni has ruled out renewing its contract on grounds that Uganda should instead look for "a cheaper way of modernising and expanding the distribution and distribution lines".

The report also discovered that Shs39b was deducted from five government agencies even as there was no supporting documentation to back up the payments.

Uganda Police paid Shs1.8b, Ministry of Defence Shs531m, Ministry of Health Shs57m, Ministry of Finance Shs67m and unconfirmed balances of Shs37b.

Cosase Chairman Abdu Katuntu questioned why UEDCL commissioned a report to establish the authenticity of government meters being managed by Umeme but has never conducted a follow-up investigation.

Mr Blessing Nshaho, Umeme's Chief Corporate and Regulatory Officer, told the Committee that Umeme was not part of the report and could therefore neither confirm nor deny the existence of the ghost meters.

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