Tough penalties for illegal power connections timely
The proposal to raise the minimum fine payable by those convicted of making illegal power connections and disconnections is welcome as it will help deter such criminal activity. The Energy Bill 2017 suggests a steeper minimum fine of Sh1 million on homes and businesses that make illegal power connections and disconnections besides a jail term of at least a year for the offenders.
Presently, the law sets a maximum jail term of one year and caps the fines at Sh1 million, permitting the courts to impose penalties of as a little as Sh50,000 for those in breach. The more punitive provisions of the proposed law will certainly jolt would be offenders. Parliament should consider passing the Bill into law soonest possible.
Illegal power connections are particularly a threat to public safety and the financial wellbeing of the power utility firms that rely on sales for revenue. Any breaches must therefore be dealt with decisively because of the implications they have on safety and the larger economy. However we must not just stop at having a new retributive law. Efforts must be made to weed out the cartels that thrive on the proceeds of illegal power connections. Electricity connections require special skills that ordinary citizens may not possess hence utility firms must keep watch on their own highly trained personnel who may turn rogue just to make an extra coin illegally.
Many cases are in the public domain where staff of utility firms have been arrested and charged in court for carrying out illegal connection of power at a fee. The power firms must first deal with their rogue officers if the fight against illegal connections is to be successful. The officers assigned the responsibility of connecting customers must be vetted thoroughly and constantly monitored on the job so as to ensure only those with high integrity handle the task. Besides, the utility firms should improve on their inventory records because the equipment and materials used for the illegal connections are owned by them. The electricity firms must also improve efficiency in processing customer applications for connections since cartels deliberately create delays in order to take advantage of desperate applicants.
Any breaches must therefore be dealt with decisively