Kenya Power and Lighting Company Limited is the sole and only monopoly of electricity supply to Kenyans for domestic and commercial purposes and consumers of electricity have no other viable choice.
Though the Company is publicly listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange the government of Kenya has just slightly over 50 per cent ownership and that is why KPLC is a State Corporation, a parastatal. There are however private citizens and other legal persons who own shares of Kenya Power and they are part owners.
The government is still heavily subsidizing Kenya Power and through legislative fiat allows the Company to hedge on currency fluctuations impacting on it by passing those fluctuations to the consumer.
Unfortunately, truth be told, the monopoly called Kenya Power is a law unto itself. It is not accountable to anybody but the whims of those who manage it and their connivance with key suppliers who supply key inputs required to make the Company operational.
The unfolding scandal about various Companies having been listed for scrutiny by the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) over suspected electricity billing fraud is a tip of the iceberg. Kenya Power’s billing to most customers is arbitrary and defies logic but most customers are caught between the hard place and a rock, given that when they raise complaints they are taken round in circles, without any logical answer and then threatened or actually disconnected with power and they are blackmailed to pay what they believe are exaggerated, inflated bills.
Is it any wonder that the same Kenya Power is no longer enthusiastic to promote prepaid billing which denies them the opportunity to manipulate billing?
In the telecommunication sector, there is competition between Safaricom, Airtel, Telkom Kenya and none of those service providers can mistreat consumers as the consumers can vote with their feet and move to another service provider.
Institutions, like schools, hospitals, broadcasters, manufacturers other large consumers of electricity that have to rely on postpaid are routinely, if not continuously, given arbitrary billings with the threat of disconnection if the bill is not paid forthwith. Add on top of the arbitrary billing the constant, unending blackout and power fluctuations that damage consumers’ equipment, machines, electronics and there stands a monstrous, unaccountable public entity that is riddled with corruption, inefficiencies and an impediment to the realization of commerce, entrepreneurship.
The question then is who will hold Kenya Power accountable? For how long will it continue passing the costs of its inefficiency, corruption, pilfering to the consumer? For in the same breath of trying to connect as many Kenyans to the national grid for electricity there lurks the poisoned chalice of fleecing the consumers through arbitrary billing and not taking responsibility for the loss of business and equipment the same Kenya Power occasions consumers through blackouts and power fluctuations that are destructive?
The last mile adventure was turned into an expansive looting spree with reckless procurements that have literally financially crippled the company and the sustainability of the project is suspect. Time will yield, reveal the truth.
The Consumer Federation of Kenya (COFEK) whimpers of holding Kenya Power accountable long flickered off and new means and strategies must be found to make Kenya Power transparent and accountable to its consumers. There has to be diligence, agility in restoring power eliminating those fluctuations and destructive outages. Time for competition in the sector is long overdue. Local energy solutions, energy provisions independent of Kenya Power are needed through renewable energy sources like solar, wind and others.
Commerce manufacturing and all the Big Four Agendas of President Uhuru Kenyatta will be rendered nonstarters, unachievable without accountability from the only monopoly, that supplies electricity for Kenyan consumers. The world now moves on the digital platform and electricity is a necessity, not a luxury. The entity charged with delivering that necessity must be scrupulously transparent, accountable and efficient for all of us to progress period. Kenya Power must be reformed, remodelled to serve the public and private sector efficiently, affordably and reliably.