Tough penal­ties for il­le­gal power con­nec­tions timely

Business Daily (Kenya) - - EDITORIAL & OPINION -

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

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