Power supplier-Umeme Ltd has challenged local suppliers of wood poles to ensure that the poles they harvest and supply the energy sector are of the right quality.
The entity says whereas it stopped importing poles from abroad to support local suppliers, some of the poles being supplied and deployed in the sector are rotting in a short period of time.
“We used to import poles from Kenya and South Africa. That has since stopped. The quality of poles we get here is ok but we’re still seeing some poles rotting after two years instead of 17years a pole is supposed to work” says Innocent Byamukama, a Procurement Manager at Umeme Ltd.
He was presenting a paper on Local Sourcing Experience in the Energy Supply Industry, Challenges and Opportunities for Local Suppliers at the Inaugural ESI Local Content Forum 2022 organised by Electricity Regulatory Authority in collaboration with PPDA, UNBS and UMA in Kampala.
“We support BUBU because it emphasizes local content but when we see them (poles) rotting, then we know there’s a problem with the quality” he said adding that even some transformers have such problems.
He said compliance to the approved technical specifications by some local suppliers/manufacturers is still a challenge.
“Quite a number of of them are not certified. We encourage them to get certification. They shouldn’t look at the Ugandan market alone but also our neighbors in DRC, South Sudan, Rwanda. But they need certification” he advised.
Byamukama said that deploying fake goods and services on the network affects reliable power supply.
“If you buy garbage and feed it on the grid, the quality of electricity will be bad. Therefore, let’s improve on quality and compliance so that we don’t compromise our sector” he said, adding that there’s need to adopt to technology that can scan and trace the supplier of particular poles as a measure to rid the sector of substandard suppliers. He said there’s need to continue putting in place measures to ensure quality of poles.
Byamukama also had no kind words for some of the local suppliers whose documentation he said is lacking. He said some lack the necessary tax clearance papers while others fail when it comes to organizing their own documents especially in respect of bids. He said many of them who would otherwise scoop such contracts lose out on business due to poor documentation.
“We’re also faced with a challenge of inconsistent suppliers. Some of them disappear after winning contracts. They bid, win the contract but after two years, the company changes location or nature of business. This affects supply of spare parts if you need them because the company closed business. So, there must be consistency and sustainability” he said.
Meanwhile, Richard Mubiru, a board member at UMA blamed such undesirable conduct on those who are into manufacturing but don’t want to be regulated or supervised.
He said as UMA, they have come up with a code of conduct for it’s members to ensure credibility among manufacturers.
“I think as Ugandans this is unacceptable. These undesired conduct require concerted effort. UMA has developed a code of conduct but the challenge is we’re a private entity and some people don’t want to belong to it. There are those (manufacturers) who do not want to belong anywhere. Those are the wrong doers” he said.
He blamed this situation on failure by the ministry for trade to come up with a policy requiring all manufacturers to belong to particular grouping.
“Trade is yet to require that for you to do business in Uganda, you must belong somewhere. Currently, people think it’s their right to belong anywhere and this is dangerous because there are those who do not want to belong anywhere” he said.
However, according to the ministry of trade, the delay to regulate manufacturers was meant to encourage many of them to come on board.
“We wanted the manufacturers. We didn’t want to scare them away. But now, we have reached a point and say; we must regulate them. Belonging to UMA or starting a manufacturing company doesn’t mean you’re a manufacturer. But this has been a gap in the side of the ministry” the ministry says.
The participants commended ERA for organizing the forum and urged that it becomes an annual event, a proposal ERA Chief Executive Officer Eng. Ziria Waako Tibalwa welcomed.
“It’s my joy and honor for us as stakeholders in ESI to engage you as the regulator. We need this interaction done annually. It gives us an opportunity to discuss factors that impede on utilization of local content. What are those factors? This is what this forum sought to address” she said.
Research indicates that average life expectancy of a wood pole is around 45years but this depends on location and other related climate factors!