Monrovia — In a bid to combat the menace of power theft, the management of the Liberia Electricity Cooperation (LEC) has embarked on a citizen engagement campaign in several communities in Monrovia and its environs.
The LEC has been rocked by persistent power theft which it said is being orchestrated by unscrupulous individuals including some of its own workers that is currently causing the entity to lose up to 60 percent of its income.
At one of the meetings with residents in Congo Town, outside Monrovia, over the weekend, the LEC's Communication Director, Mambu James Kpargoi said, following the takeover of a new management system, the LEC intends to engage with its customers to improve services and curtail power theft.
Mr. Kpargoi noted that the issue of power theft is undermining the LEC's mandate of providing electricity to the Liberia people.
"We are losing 60 percent of what we generate to power theft which is a colossal lost. Management has decided to hold community meeting with residents to see how best they can work with management to curtail the problem of power theft," he stated.
Meanwhile, customers have expressed frustration over what they termed as the unfair treatment meted against them by the LEC.
They complained that management does not respond to their call whenever there is power outage due to damage done to their transformers or meters.
They also alleged that some of the LEC workers or those claimed to be employed by LEC - in the entity's uniform and bearing ID card are constantly in the community and carrying out illegal connections and extolling money from customers; adding that most of these illegal activities can be done at night.
They called on the management of LEC to collaborate with the community and set up a monitoring team and provide hotlines that customers will report cases of power theft and other forms of malpractices.
"LEC work is technical. It requires people who are well trained. So, those who are responsible for this power theft issue are LEC staff. They are dressed up in uniform with LEC vehicles and are constantly in the community illegally connecting people. I think the LEC should have well paid sizable staff to avoid the problem of power theft," Richard Kollie, a community member averred.
In response, Kpargoi noted that the LEC is aware that some of its staff are engaged in unscrupulous acts while in the field an some have been arrested pending court trial.
He called on residents to report power theft cases and stop giving out money to any LEC staff for connection; noting that all financial activities are carried out at the LEC office and not with agents in the field.
Kpargoi, who was accompanied by Brenda O' Connor and Shaban Berisha, Network Supervisor and Data Protection Manger respectively of ESBI Engineering and Facility management limited, a private firm that has assumed full responsibility of managing the LEC, explained that some of the measures put in place by the new management include the issuance of special safety jackets-coded with numbers to the LEC Anti-power theft and Commercial crew members so that resident can easily identify them whenever they are caught in malpractice while in the field.
He said hotline number 4500 is now dedicated to customer related issues such as cases of damaged transformers and meters; while 4600 can be used to report LEC workers or non-employees that are engaged in any forms of malpractices in the field.
He also told the residents that no LEC worker is allowed to work after 5pm, except for emergency cases such as electrical shocks that may lead to fire disaster.