Sunday, August 05, 2007

Erratic power, changing bills

“There is a problem with my bill, it’s too high!!” Mary said to the Kenya Power and Lighting Company cashier across the counter.

“You tell me, you are the one using the power, not me,” the cashier responded.

Mary had no choice than to pay the shs 2000 bill. Failure to pay would have meant disconnection, and reconnection procedures are a story for another day.

It was shocking for Mary, a single mother of three to receive that bill, because her bill for the last two years had been shs 150 or at most sh 200.

One can assume that Mary was justified to seek explanation for the drastic change in her bill. She wondered how she would have consumed all that power with the light bulb and the transistor radio.

But her story applies to so many Kenyans whose bills are inflated once in a while. KPLC argues that some meters are interfered with and once the interference is detected, the bills can be backdated.

With interference, the consumer gets a jua kali electrician to ensure that one consumes a lot but pays less. For instance, you can find a block of flats with all sorts of electrical appliances yet the bill is minimal.

There was a time Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) talked about selling power “pay as you use” like the scratch cards. Maybe that would have been a better idea, so that we can control what we use.

Tanzania has made good progress with LUKU- Lipa Umeme Kadri Utumiavyo- and it has been argued that LUKU minimizes the interference. But I knew friends who had interfered with the power

KPLC has been promoting the Umeme Pamoja, program, to connect more homes at minimal costs. But with the erratic blackouts and talk of power shortages, maybe KPLC should address some of these problems before connecting more.

Of course I am in support of more connections so that we can all share the light but are there things that KPLC can do better and improve the quality of their services.


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