Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) Chief Executive Officer Eng. Ziria Tibalwa Waako has said that vandalism of the electricity infrastructure remains a biggest challenge to the Electricity Supply Industry.
She says the vice continues to affect the cost of electricity and supply, as a lot of money is spent on restoration, repairs and mentainance of the infrastructure.
“We have a challenge of non- patriotic Ugandans destroying the infrastructure. Vandalism is economic sabotage” she said adding that a person who steals power is not different from a person who robs a bank.
Eng. Ziria made the remarks while opening a Sensitization seminar for judicial officers and state artoneys at Mistil hotel Nsambya. The seminar organized by ERA is one of the several engagements ERA has embarked on to sensitize relevant stakeholders on the newly ammended Electricity Act 2022.
She said the engagements are meant to enlight the stakeholders on the dos and don’ts as well as areas for improving service delivery.
Ziria said the ESI has been evolving from the time of UEB when bills were physically brought to people’s doors on motorcycles, to when UEB was unbandled 20years ago.
She explained that at the time of unbandling, three successor companies including UEGCL,UETCL and UEDCL were created but governmnent remained with the monopoly of transmission segment. She said with the ammended Act however, even this segment has been opened to the private sector.
“The new law now allows the private sector to invest in the entire value chain. Generation, Transmission and Distribution” she said.
She said now that governmnent is attracting new private players in the sector, the prosecution role of the ESI needs to be enhanced.
“We now have more clearer and specific penalties for vandalism and compliance issues. We called this engagement because we believe that if we start with you, this journey of operationalizing the new ammendment is worthwhile. We want to tap into your expertise to improve the ESI and also to have your clear understanding of the new ammendments” she said.
Meanwhile, deputy director of public prosecutions George William Byansi welcomed the new tough ammendments because it will ease their work. He said oftentimes, the prosecution has investigated cases and successfully prosecuted them in court but are let down by lighter sentences given to criminals.
“You struggle to investigate but you don’t get a good sentence and yet (as) prosecution (we) can’t appeal against the sentence. Then, the criminal comes back to the community. This is affecting us a lot. But we’re happy with the new law. It will make our prosecutions more effective” he said, adding that as DPP’s office they strive to prove to the public that crime doesn’t pay. He added that his office also wants those convicted for any crime to forfeit any of their assets that they might have acrued from thefts.
“There are businesses that have been acquired through crime. We want to go for that. We’re happy with the new law because it makes our work easier” he said.
In another development, Her Worship Mary Kisaakye from Judicial Training Institute commended ERA for the training, saying it was timely.
“We pledge to work together. With the new law, we expect to have a better electricity environment” she said. Kisaakye said currently, judicial officers have been each giving his own sentences but now, they will have to harmonise.
In the new law, the harshest penalty is imprisonment for 10years and a fine of Shs1bn or both on conviction for any electricity-related cases including vandalism and power theft.