The government has stepped up free electricity connections to thousands of Ugandans in a bid to remove the backlog that accumulated following the suspension of the programme in 2020.

The policy implementation resumed in March after a three-month suspension starting in December 2020 over government failure to pay service providers.

Energy Minister Ruth Nankabirwa says before embarking on new applications, they are bent on clearing the backlog of about 300,000 connections, which resulted from the suspension of the policy.

“Requests for new consumer connections continued accumulating and by 7th December 2020, there was a backlog of 200,500 applications for new electricity connections. The policy resumed with a dual connection system where customers with the ability to pay for their connections can pay in three days without waiting as Government mobilizes additional resources for the ECP to clear the backlog,” said Nankabirwa on Friday.

The companies carrying out the connections say they will first connect handle the backlog on a first come-first- served basis. Mr Stephen Ilungole, the Umeme media relations manager, said at the weekend that the programme is another opportunity to serve customers on top of serving those willing to fund their connection costs.

“There were slightly over 250,000 customers who have applied for free connections and had waited more than five months. The 87,500 under our docket will be selected from these customers on a first-come-first-serve basis,” said Illungole.

Minister Nankabirwa said even the ongoing connections are following the order starting with the oldest completed applications, as procurement for more materials continues.

In December 2020, the then Minister for Energy and Mineral Development, Mary Goretti Kitutu announced that 110,697 connections were to be completed by the end of this year. Now, of the new connections since December, 1,502 connections were completed between April and June this year, an average of 500 per month.

This brings the total connections under the policy, to 299,843 as of the end of June 2021. This is also still far below the target that was set when the policy commenced in 2018.  The target of the policy is 300,000 connections per year and is supposed to take up electricity connections to the national grid to 60% by 2027 when it ends, up from the current 30%, according to the ministry. The ministry hopes that connectivity rates will continue as the activities pick up and as more resources are got by the government, so as to meet the target.