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ERA a Weak Regulator, MPs Say

The parliamentary adhoc committee on energy has described power regulator, Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA), as weak and incompetent.

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The parliamentary adhoc committee on energy has described power regulator, Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA), as weak and incompetent.

In their draft report, the committee says ERA is functionally and technically inept and lacks the expertise to provide strategic technical guidance and direction highly needed in the energy sector.

The committee says ERA lacks independence and technically functional human resources to effectively curb the monopoly power of the powerful private investors. In their report, the members say the regulator is highly influenced by the politicians and bureaucrats from the Ministry of Energy yet it is supposed to be an independent body making independent decisions.

But Julius Wandera, ERA’s public relations officer, disputes the claims and says they are as independent as the Law mandates them.

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According to the report, the inefficiency of the power regulatory authority is attributable to the vacant senior management positions at its offices. The members of the committee question why the positions of the Executive Director and Legal Counsel have remained vacant since the termination of the contracts of Engineer John Sebowa and Johnson Kwesigabo two years ago.

Benon Mutambi who has occupied the office of the CEO in acting capacity was however confirmed as the substantive CEO last week.

The members say that it is because of these weaknesses that private players especially have manipulated the system leading to the enormous irregularities in the sector. Power distributing company Umeme has according to the committee taken advantage of these weaknesses to exploit Ugandans through inflated lossesand faulty billing.

The committee says ERA admitted before the committee that it relies on UMEME to avail them with information regarding the distribution sector yet ERA should be supervising the distributor.

It therefore says Ugandans cannot trust ERA if it cannot independently verify Umeme’s claims on both investments and power losses. The report indicates that Umeme claims to have so far invested 185 million US Dollars yet there is no development in the sector to show for it.

But ERA denies these claims. Wandera says ERA supervises Umeme and carries out investment verifications.

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The committee also says Umeme was contracted fraudulently as the individuals who negotiated on behalf of the Ugandan Government admitted their lack of experience in the sector before the committee.

The committee further established that one of the advisors contracted by government during the concession negotiations Shonubi, Musoke and Company Advocates also doubled as Umeme’s legal counsel.

The members therefore recommended that the individuals that represented the government of Uganda who include Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited director Erias Kiyemba and director Privatisation Unit in the ministry of finance, David Ssebabi, be relieved of their duties and prosecuted for abuse of office.

The committee, chaired by West Budaama South MP Jacob Oboth-Oboth, was instituted in September 2011 to investigate irregularities in the energy sector. The draft report is yet to be tabled in Parliament.

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