Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) has launched a grand training program for security personnel including police to sensitize them on the stringent provisions in the Electricity (Amended) Act 2022 to curb vandalism of electricity infrastructure and power thefts.
The launch took place at ERA headquarters in Industrial area and was attended by among others police CID officers led by CID director AIGP Maj. Tom Magambo.
According to ERA Chief Executive Director, Eng. Ziria Waako Tibalwa, the training program launched today will be spread across the country targeting District Police Commanders, Regional Police Commanders, District Internal Security Officers, Resident District Commissioners among others.
The training program is aimed at sensitizing the security personnel on the new Act that came into force on May 22 2022 after the president assented to it.
Eng. Ziria says the Ammended Act among others provides for heavy penalities for any act of vandalism of electricity infrastructure and power thefts.
Ziria explains that the ammended Act for example, increased the number of years upon conviction, from 2 years to now 15 years for some cases and fines from 2m to now 2billion.
She said the sector has registered tremendous strides since the first dam was commissioned in 1954, but vices such as vandalism of electricity infrastructure and power thefts are still a challenge.
“You struggle to arrest the vandal, have him convicted but the penalty is a caution! These vandals don’t know what we go through to put up that infrastructure. Now, the new law provides for stringent penalities. Therefore, when you see anybody touching the wires, protection devices, meters mounted in the pole, transformers, that person should be arrested” she said.
She said because of the role police plays in enforcing law and order, ERA wants police to put these disorderly people to order.
Ziria described such interferences with the infrastructure as economic sabotage.
“You see someone cutting the base of a tower, he affects everyone. Those in hospital, distribution, transmission etc. Therefore, we seek to train, sensitize and as well learn from district security committees about issues of vandalism as the first phase of this proposed partnership” she said.
ERA legal officer Counsel Obiga said that vandalism occurs majorly with transmission and distribution where vandals target angle bars, conductors, meters, public lamps, among others and that government spends over Shs2bn annualy to replace vandalized infrastructure.
“This money is equivalent to 2700 households or a Subcounty connected. We therefore, seek cooperation in areas of protection of infrastructure and investigation of cases” Obiga said.
Meanwhile, AIGP Magambo welcomed the initiative by ERA and said as police, they are committed to the cause. He stressed the need for electricity in Socio-economic transformation.
“Which tourist wants to come to a country where he’s not sure he will be safe? He needs to know whether the hotel he’s going to stay has power for him to connect with his family.
Therefore, is it possible to transform society without electricity when some rougues vandalize infrastructure?” He wondered, adding that loadshedding has no borders and affects everyone whether NRM or opposition.
He called for concerted effort to deal with vandals and disclosed that currently, police is handling 60 cases which are already in court.
Magambo however, noted that whereas police will do it’s work, it is important for ERA to also embrace modern technology to protect and monitor electricity installations.