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Slum power selling racket switched off

BUSINESS
By Wainaina Wambu | January 17th 2020
Kenya Power staff move the illegally connected transformer that was used to supply power to a section of residents in Pipeline, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina/Standard]

Kenya Power yesterday dismantled an illegal power selling racket deep inside a Nairobi slum, exposing how a Sh300 million World Bank-backed slum electrification project was taken over by rogue businessmen.

The early morning operation, which is part of a nationwide crackdown on illegal connections, however raised more questions than answers on how the racket could have gone undetected by the power utility firm for years.

In 2016, as part of Kenya’s electricity expansion project, the World Bank’s Global Partnership Output-Based Aid (GPOBA) partnered with Kenya Power to roll out the slum electrification programme aimed at subsidising the cost of electricity to low-income earners and ending illegal connections.

Beneficiaries were required to pay Sh1,165 for new connections.

However, power cartels in most informal settlements in Nairobi, including Kibera and Mukuru, took over the project’s infrastructure.

The extent of the rot bedeviling the project was exposed yesterday during a raid on Transami, a low-income settlement near Mukuru slums, in Embakasi.

At one of the sites, 200 KVA ground-mounted transformer had been enclosed in a small stonewalled building from where illegal connections originated.

The transformer, which Kenya Power impounded, was next to a six-storey flat that got its supply from it. The rest was supplied to dozens of iron sheet-walled houses and a myriad of businesses. The disconnection of the transformer left dozens of residents without power. The power supply is known as “sambaza” and residents said they paid between Sh200 and Sh700 per month to people they described as “agents.”

Kenya Power Customer Service Manager Rosemary Oduor, however, defended the company against accusations of negligence, saying they had embarked on a “paradigm shift” onward to prevent illegal connections.

“Today’s operation is meant to mark a new dawn,” she said.

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