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Kenya Power switches off poles cartel

By Nzau Musau | September 23rd 2018
By Nzau Musau | September 23rd 2018
A Kenya Power technician at work. Supply of electric poles will not longer be done through an exclusive local business association.

Kenya Power has finally suspended involvement of a close-knit but powerful business cartel in vetting suppliers of electricity poles following a Saturday Standard expose in July.

At the same time, the Government has said it will procure transformers directly from manufacturers to enhance safety and integrity for consumers.

In a letter addressed to Kenya Wood Preservers Association (Kewopa), Kenya Power acting Supply Chain General Manager Joyce Ochieng said pole suppliers would no longer need the organisation’s nod to supply the company.

“You are hereby notified that the requirement for Kewopa membership certificate and joint factory acceptance tests has been suspended awaiting review. The qualification and eligibility requirements shall be detailed in each tender,” Ms Ochieng wrote in the letter dated September 10.

The letter also said Kenya Power would now be undertaking periodic factory acceptance tests and factory inspection “which shall form the basis for contract performance assessment and consequently advise on future allocations.”

Ran the show

In the previous regime exposed by the Saturday Standard, Kewopa ran the show on both the tests and inspection on behalf of Kenya Power and to the advantage of the top shots who hold sway over the association.

Kenya Power officials are said to have colluded with Kewopa by requiring all suppliers to go through it.

From Ms Ochieng’s communication however, this requirement will no longer apply.

“As per the law, mandatory inspection and acceptance shall be done on all poles delivered to our stores. Kenya Power reserves the right to accept or reject as per the technical specifications. We look forward to your usual good cooperation,” the letter reads.

Our July expose had revealed how Kewopa - infiltrated by proxies of a top Government official and two Cabinet Secretaries - was running the show in the multi-billion-shilling industry.

Besides locking outsiders from the business, the association comprising of 40 treatment plants fixed the prices and shared the tenders among its members.

Immediately the expose ran, Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter called for investigations into the scam.

Later, Kewopa chairman Michael Kandie denied the cartel tag and claims of patronage from Government officials.

“The MD himself reached out to us after the embarrassment and the losses they went through. They wanted us to help them on the quality element and we agreed to help if they assured us of getting the business, and that is all we have been doing... of course with complaints from the few who are unable to meet our stringent demand for quality poles,” he said.

Kenya Power’s annual demand for poles for the last few years is estimated at 450,000 owing to the Jubilee government’s Last Mile connectivity project.

With regard to transformers, Mr Keter said the ministry has discontinued Kenya Power’s policy of procuring from vendors as the previous ones failed the company’s own quality tests,.

This year alone, 438 transformers have exploded in various parts of the country, the CS told the Senate Energy Committee.

“We have stopped buying from the vendors because of the risks involved. We are now going directly to manufacturers because in the event of any mishap we know where to go,” he said.

[Additional reporting by Roselyne Obala]

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