Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development has moved to amend the law to introduce penalties up to a 12 year jail sentence against vandalism of electricity facilities, electricity theft as well as sale of stolen electrical equipment.
According to Hon Nankabirwa The Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022 tabled in parliament on Thursday for it’s first reading is intended to remove inconsistencies in the existing law, introduce flexibility in its implementation and to streamline operations of the electricity sector but also to discourage theft of electrical energy and vandalism of electrical equipment.
In a raft of amendments to the Electricity Act, Cap. 145, the proposed law prescribes tough penalties for electrical technicians who administer illegal power connections also known as “kamyuffu” but also targets dealers/traders who sell stolen electrical items/equipment including service wires, poles, electric meters, etc.
In the proposed amendments, Section 85 introduces penalties for interfering with meters, works or public lamp, and any person who without the consent of the licensee or the owner (a) cuts, removes, takes away or transfers any electric supply line, material, meter or public lamp from a tower, pole, any other installation or site where it may be stored or situated or including during transportation, commits an offense and is is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding Fifty Thousand currency points or imprisonment not exceeding Twelve (12) years or both.
The Bill prescribes the same penalty to; “1(b) A person stores or otherwise keeps in his or her premises any electric line, material, meter or public lamp without the consent of the licensee or owner; (c) moves from one place to another any electric line, material, meter or public lamp without the consent of the licensee or owner (d) without authorization connects any meter, indicator or apparatus with any electric line through which electricity is supplied by a licensee or disconnects a meter, indicator or apparatus from any electric line; (e) without authorization reconnects any meter, indicator or apparatus with any electric line or other works being the property of a licensee when the electric line has been cut or disconnected; (f) lays or causes to be laid or connects up any works for the purpose of communicating with any other works belonging to a licensee; or (g) damages any meter, indicator, or apparatus belonging to a licensee or alters the index of any meter, indicator or apparatus or prevents any meter, indicator or apparatus from duly registering.”
However, Subsection (3) states that a person convicted of a subsequent offence under Section 1 above is liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand currency points or imprisonment not exceeding fifteen years or both, and (4) a person who receives stolen electric lines or materials knowing or having reason to believe the same to be stolen property commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding twenty thousand currency points or imprisonment not exceeding ten years or both.”
Under Section 86, A person who “(a) taps, makes or causes to be made any connection with overhead, underground or under water lines or cables or service wires or service facilities of a licensee;
(b) tampers with a meter, installs or uses a current reversing transformer, loop connection or other device or method which interferes with accurate or proper registration, calibration or metering of electric current; or (c) damages or destroys an electricity meter, apparatus, equipment or wire or causes or allows any of them to be so damaged or destroyed as to interfere with the proper or
accurate metering of electricity, to abstract, consume or use electricity, commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding twenty thousand currency points or imprisonment not exceeding ten years or both.
However, where the electricity abstracted, consumed, or used does not exceed l0 kilowatts, the convicted person shall, in addition to the prison sentence be liable to pay ten times the cost of the abstracted, used or consumed load calculated at the prevailing tariff; and if the stolen power exceeds l0 kilowatts, the convicted person shall be liable to pay twenty times the cost of the
abstracted, used or consumed load calculated at the prevailing tariff.
According to minister Nankabirwa, government loses Shs 26 billion annually through vandalism as Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Limited (UEDCL) spends Shs 600 million to repair vandalized power lines in the country. In addition, power theft and illegal connections not only endangers the communities but also affects the reliability of supply and the network.
Nankabirwa says the penalties under the current law are not deterrent enough to discourage theft of electrical energy and vandalism of electrical equipment. She says, the criminal acts have consistently increased the cost of operation and maintenance of electricity infrastructure as well as the commercial losses experienced by the electricity distribution companies.
The Bill also proposes provisions for additional functions of Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) and to empower the Authority to impose fines on licensees in the energy sector, for breach of the terms of the license before taking a drastic decision of suspending or canceling a license. It also provides for empowerment of the Electricity Disputes Tribunal which arbitrates concerns of stakeholder in the sector.
The Deputy Speaker, Anita Among, referred the Bill to the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources for scrutiny. In accordance with the Parliament Rules of Procedure, the Committee is expected to consider the Bill and report to the House in not more than 45 days.
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