State to connect more homes to electricity after securing funds

President William Ruto at Mzee Kitheka Mbuvi's home during the launch of the Last Mile Connectivity Project in Nzombe, Kitui County. [File, Standard]

Kenya Power plans to connect 280,500 homes in 32 counties with cheap electricity under the controversial Last Mile Connectivity Project

The latest phase of the State-backed project, which links homes to the national grid under a subsidised arrangement, will be funded by the French Development Agency (AFD) for an undisclosed amount. 

"The government of Kenya has received financing from Agence Française de Développement (AFD), and intends to use part of the funds thereof for payments under the following project the Last Mile Connectivity Project," says Kenya Power in internal documents seen by The Standard

The project will involve the electrification of 280,500 customers in 32 counties across the country for three years, added Kenya Power. 

The Standard was unable to immediately reach AFD or Kenya Power for comment on additional details of expected beneficiaries.  

The resumption of the project renews hope for thousands of households without electricity after a financing hitch saw it stall. 

The African Development Bank (AfDB), which bankrolled the plan in the past, had said the project was grappling with a budget deficit, leading to delays in its continuation. 

“As the sum of the contract price has exceeded the total estimated project cost, the government of Kenya contribution has to be increased or supplementary finance has to be requested to avoid delay on payment to contractors,” AfDB said last year in an audit update on the project. 

At the time, the project saw consumers get connected to the grid at a subsidised rate of Sh15,000 depending on their proximity to power lines and transformers, down from Sh35,000. 

Beneficiaries were strictly homes located within 600 metres of a transformer. 

The project aims at extending the low voltage system throughout the country so that counties with low electricity penetration rates benefit the most.  

Kenya Power says in its latest annual report it has over eight million customers presently out of which 716,206 were connected to the grid in the year to June 2021 compared to 500,397 new customers the previous year.  

"Our business development efforts, supported by the increased presence in the counties enabled us to connect 418,935 out of which 260,551 were connected under the Last Mile Connectivity Project," said the power distributor. 

"This increased the total number of customers to 8,278,203 as of the end of June 2021."

Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu in a report last year faulted Kenya Power for several missteps in implementing the project, including failure to conduct public participation.

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“There was a lack of public participation by communities targeted in the project, which led to lack of project ownership by members of the public thus hampering its implementation,” said Ms Gathungu in the report released in November last year.

“There was no evidence of engagement with key regulatory, oversight and stakeholder agencies such as the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) and Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Corporation (RERREC) and omission which can lead to duplication of projects.”  

The project also came under scrutiny after it emerged that Kenya Power had procured faulty electricity meters.

There was also the issue of absentee consultants who were handed the task of supervising project civil works and installation of gadgets.
 
The audit of the project further revealed that single prepaid meters procured from a Chinese company for Sh1.08 billion were not accepting purchased tokens despite being activated by the supplier.

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