Wrangles threaten electricity management in Bundibugyo

Electricians on duty
Wrangles could affect the distribution and management of electricity in Bundibugyo. Courtesy Photo.

Bundibugyo Energy and Cooperative Society is embroiled in a management wrangle. The cooperative won a concession in 2010 to manage and distribute power in the district. According to the concession, the cooperative is responsible for power distribution, maintenance of the power lines and revenue collection from power consumers.

However, more than 500 members of the cooperative society have petitioned the Registrar of Cooperatives in the Trade and Industry Ministry calling for the disbandment of the current board for alleged incompetence and financial impropriety.

In a March 25th 2017 letter to the Registrar signed by Hannington Agaba, the petitioners accuse the board of failing to conduct Annual General Meetings. According to the petitioners, the current board has been in existence since 2011 in violation of their constitution which stipulates that the board should serve for only two years.

The members also allege the board has been involved in huge procurement of properties such as land and houses without the knowledge of member societies. They cite a house and land the board purchased in Bundibugyo town at Shillings 60 Million and 65 Million, respectively.

Other complaints include creation of a health insurance scheme for only top members such as the manager, finance officer, line engineer, technical officer and cashier. The board is also accused of failing to remit taxes worth Shillings 200 Million to Uganda Revenue Authority.

The members now want the Registrar of Cooperatives to disband the current board, audit the books of accounts, organize and supervise elections for a new board.  According to the letter, the members have threatened to stop paying for electricity unless the registrar intervenes addresses their concerns.

However, the Board Chairman, Justus Nkayarwa dismisses the allegations by the members. He accuses the members of tarnishing his name and failure to appreciate the work of the board. Nkayarwa declined to comment on why the current board has been in office for seven years.

Charles Baluku, a trader in Bundibugyo town says that the wrangles could affect the distribution and management of electricity in the district. He wants the relevant authorities to intervene and bring the warring parties together.

Apparently, the cooperative society is still struggling to ensure that all households in the district have access to electricity. The cooperative had planned to connect more than 2500 households to the national grind by 2015, but only 1200 are connected.

Electricity under the cooperative scheme is subsidized as domestic consumers pay 375 Shillings per unit while those on three-phase are charged 400 Shillings per unit. The proceeds from the electricity are used to pay salary for the staff and replace old electricity poles.

The cooperative model was introduced by the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) to enable farmers, small industries, businesses and other rural dwellers to have access to electricity at a reasonable cost.