FEATURED: REG, partners in new effort to curb electricity theft

Stanley Nkubito Kamugisha, Head of Energy Efficiency and Revenue Protection Unit at REG. / Frederick Byumvuhore

Cases of people who disguise themselves as Rwanda Energy Group (REG) workers to steal electricity by tempering with metres have been rampant.

The offenders often use illegal practices illegally connect households with electricity.

The theft was hurting REG’s revenues and derailing the country’s development efforts. Incidences of fire breakouts, deaths and power shortage that affects businesses among others.

Stanley Nkubito Kamugisha, Head of Energy Efficiency and Revenue Protection Unit at REG, said that over the last10 years the firm has recovered stolen power items worth Rwf3 billion in stolen items while 3000 people were arrested in connection with these illegal activities.

The recovered items include cables, transformers and electric poles among other infrastructures. The suspects usually sale the properties to individual and companies, Kamugisha said.

The recovered items could not be reused because they were damaged.

Some of the recovered electrical materials.

Theft in districts

Last year Kayonza district alone lost over Rwf22 million in stolen REG items as 20 people were arrested.

James Mugabo, the REG Branch Manager in Kayonza District

The branch was established in 2016.

“Since we started our operations, we collaborated with local leaders to decrease the cases of illegal activities that were rampant across the district,” he explained.

Joel Elvis Nsabimana, the Manager of REG branch in Musanze district, said that a total of 21 people have been arrested this year. They were caught with property worth Rwf6 million.

In Nyarugenge district, five people were this year arrested as the company recovered Rwf1.5 million, according to Martin Mutsindashyaka, the manager of REG branch in the district.

Fulgence Nkundabakuze, the REG Manager in Gicumbi district, also noted that last year six people were caught in tempering with meter while four others were caught stealing REG property two months ago.

The district recorded a loss of over Rwf2.5 million due to electricity theft Rwf11 million of stolen items.

In the beginning of this month, Ineza Flour factory which mills was caught with a meter that gives inaccurate bills.

The milling firms operates from Gikondo Industrial Park in Kimihurura.

It reportedly caused a big loss to REG. While it was to pay Rwf2.1 very month, it ended up paying Rwf700,000.

Mechanisms

Kamugisha explained that REG has come up with measures and penalties to address the problem.

 “As we proceeded to connect more households across the country, we started counting the cases of fraud and theft in all districts across the country with the majority in the cities,” he said.

The city of Kigali, Rusizi and Rubavu districts have been cited among the leading areas with highest rates of electricity fraud and theft.

“The country is experiencing high levels of urbanisation that creates more pressure on the existing infrastructure, including electricity. It becomes problematic when some people are caught in destroying what was made for general interests. Until today, we are registering cases of fraud,”

The recovered tools become useless because they are found too damaged to be re-used.  Cables are cut in pieces and they can’t be used anymore. 

It was revealed that most cases occur at night.

According to Aime M.Uwanyirigira, Head of Commercial Cycle Performance Unit, REG one of the measures being deployed include appointing agents in the community to provide information.

It is said that some residents get engaged in illegal activities ignorantly.

“We encourage residents to be more vigilant and alert us about such people. They should let us know in case of technical support. Some go to them and ask for money for any service, they should know that is not our staff because our staff are not supposed to charge money,” she added

Rwanda Investigative Bureau’s Spokesperson Modeste Mbabazi has warned people who engage fraudulent activities.

 He added that the public should be more sensitised about the tough measures taken over such kinds of thefts.

New Law

In line with the new law determining general offences and penalties that was published in the official gazette recently article 51talks about fraudulent subtraction of electric power.

The law says that any person tempers with meter, uses illegal means to subtract, branch off or divert or cause to be abstracted, branched off any electrical power, or uses any such electrical power which has been fraudulently or unlawfully abstracted, branched off or diverted commits an offense.

Upon conviction, the suspect is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than six months and not more than one year with a fine of not less than Rwf1 million and not exceeding Rwf5 million or one of these penalties only.

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