Umeme staff and contractors during a field tour. PHOTO/COURTESY

Power distributor Umeme Ltd is courting Members of Parliament to allocate funds to connect 300,000 prospective customers whose applications are still pending following the expiry of the free connection policy.

In 2018, the government with a loan from the World Bank launched the free Electricity Connection Policy-ECP to increase power connectivity in the country by subsidizing the connection fees.

Under the free ECP, customers that required no pole were asked to only pay inspection fees of Shs98,000, while those that required one pole would only pay Shillings 360,000 for connecting to the power grid.

Umeme has now run to the MPs begging them to allocate funds for the continuity of the program, whose activities were barely funded in the government’s priorities for this financial year.

Florence Nsubuga, the Umeme chief operations officer says they need at least Shillings 500 billion to connect applicants whose applications were processed before the ECP funding got depleted.

Florence Nsubuga, the Umeme chief operations officer

She adds that on a daily basis, the company receives at least 600 applications for new connections but the majority of the applicants can hardly meet the associated costs under the Customer Funded Connection-CFC policy, which the government-sanctioned towards the end of last year.

Nsubuga indicates that as they wait on the government to secure another possible funder for the subsidized connection program, it is important that MPs are aware of the underlying need such that they can deliberate on possibilities of funding the program from the local revenue basket.

According to the approved CFC costing list issued by Umeme, a domestic customer intending to get connected is required to pay Shillings 741,188 for a no-pole connection below 35 meters from the power line while those that require one pole are charged between Shillings 2.38 and 2.7million.

Isaac Katewanga, the Umeme manager in charge of Western Uganda indicates that the policy has largely benefited well earning customers who contribute just a small fraction of the general population that needs power.

He says through the Customer Funded Connection-CFC policy, they have only managed to connect 2,700 customers, which leaves a big gap that needs to be closed through deliberate interventions that subsidize the cost of connectivity.

Joseph Ssewungu, the Member of Parliament for Kalungu West challenged Umeme that while they press for more funding from the government to increase connectivity, it is also high time they addressed the problem of affordability of power by cutting their tariffs.

At the moment, the cost of electricity in Uganda is among the highest in Africa in terms of connection fees and final consumer tariffs.

Customers are charged between Shillings 751 per unit for domestic consumption and Shillings 370 for big industrial consumers.

The cost partly drags Uganda’s pursuit to achieve the seventh Sustainable Development Goal-SDG that seeks to have universal access to electricity by 2030.