Metal fabricators, phone charging Kiosks and Saloon businesses are the worst hit sector of the economy of the northern Uganda districts. Some have been observed closed in blackout while others are operating on generators which they say have increased the cost of doing business.
Power consumers in Kitgum are up in arms against Umeme over the persistent power outages, which they has affected their operations. Early this year, Umeme embarked on the upgrade of the main power line to Kitgum and promised to complete the work by May 27th.
The company promised to replace all the weak poles along the Lira-Kitgum transmission line to ensure reliable power supply to consumers. However, the power outages seem to be worsening weeks after the expiry of the 27ths may deadline. This has rubbed the business community and members of the public the wrong way.
The association of the business community has written to the office of the resident district commissioner Lt. Santos Okot Lapolo requesting for a meeting between them and the Umeme leadership to address their grievances. Lt. Lapolo acknowledges receiving numerous complains related to the works of UMEME Power limited.
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The most affected by are metal fabricators, saloons and operators of kiosk charging phones as they can’t work during the blackout. Sunday Kinyera of low cost phone doctors says operating on generator has driven up the cost of doing business. He says he spends an average of 18,000 shillings down to run his generator daily compared to the 20,000 shillings monthly electricity bills, when power is stable.
Kinyera says this is too costly for a growing business like his.
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Langoya Clay, a technician at Oyere Millers and Metal Works says the persistent power outage has affected the completion of many of their contracts. Langoya says the metal workshop is basically concentrating on manually curving designs that does not require electricity. He says this has drastically slowed down their works.
Jackson Ochieng Okino, the Manager of JDJ Metal Workshop agrees with Langoya. He accuses UMEME of failing to comply with May 27th deadline they gave to fix the problem and stabilize supply.
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Okino is greatly concerned with the exorbitant bills UMEME delivers to his workshop without appearing to read the meter every month. He says for the last three months, he has paid more than 700,000 Uganda shillings in bills that he suspects were doctored.
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The UMEME Branch Manager was out of office when contacted for comments. But the power utility company has placed public service announcement on FM stations informing the masses of sagging poles along the Lira - Kitgum line. It says it is working round the clock to replace the poles.
But Lapolo says the company has taken forever replacing poles and transformers on Lira Kitgum transmission line to stabilize supply. The outspoken RDC has no kind words for UMEME. He says Umeme is simply inefficient.
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He has pledged to ensure that UMEME explains the inconsistencies, metering procedures and interpretation of bills for ease of understanding of the common business operators.