Members of Parliament from West Nile sub-region have asked the Parliamentary Committee on Environment and Natural Resources to recommend an immediate suspension of tycoon Bitature’s Electro Maxx, saying the company was heavily indebted and that it was currently financially struggling.
The MPs led by Ora County Member of Parliament Lawrence Songa Biyika and Arua Central Business District, Jackson Atiima told the committee that just like the owner Bitature, the has lately suffered too many cash flow problems implying it no longer has any capacity to generate required electricity in the Sub-region.
Electromaxx, was contracted to deliver by the government of Uganda through the Energy Ministry to suplimante power generation of upto 8.2 Megawatts in West Nile, a task the company has since failed. The most they have ever generated is about 3.3 Megawatts.
Testifying before the Parliamentary committee on Environment and Natural Resources, the MPs insisted that the firm was at times fails to on its promise—citing lack of fuel.
That, because getting diesel fuel from Mombasa in Kenya into West Nile has proved to be such a logistical nightmare, Electro Maxx has ended up having to buy small time fuel from local petrol station dealers in Arua City. One of the MPs claimed that in most cases, Electro Maxx officials take this fuel on credit to be able to keep their thermal generators running. That many of the local fuel distributors have remained unpaid for months and as of now, some of the businesses are on the verge of collapsing because of the rampant defaulting by Electro Maxx.
One of the MPs claimed to have a list of fuel businesses in Arua which have collapsed as a result of such anomalous business practices by Electro Maxx. Before he began reading out the names, Hon Emmanuel Otaala, who chairs the Committee on Environment & Natural Resources which Speaker Among assigned to inquire into the petition, blocked him saying that wasn’t necessary.
Yet as the MPs reflected on this shocking revelation, the officials of WENRECO, which also generates power using Nyagak River and also distributes the same including what Electro Maxx generates and sells to UETCL, also revealed more as part of their submission. Specifically Peace Flavia, who heads Commercial Affairs at WENRECO, revealed how her employer in December had to part with Shs1.5bn to bail out Electro Maxx which required fuel (to carry on with their thermal generation business at their plant) but didn’t have any.
The entire West Nile, whose total peak demand for electricity is 6.8MWs, was as of December last year (shortly before Christmas) thriving on the mere 1.7MWs which WENRECO was generating from its Nyagak hydro power plant.
They (WENRECO) couldn’t produce or generate their usual 3.5MWs because their Nyagak plant was partly down hence the mere 1.7MWs.
So, the fear for the backlash that would emanate from power consumers, especially from Kampala, this being a festive season, prompted WENRECO to step in to enable Electro Maxx remain operational to avert the crisis that was looming.
This revelation by Peace Flavia angered the MPs even more. One of them, quoting Energy Minister Ruth Nankabirwa, said he was 100% sure that Electro Maxx has always been a difficult service provider in West Nile since 2017-2018 when they first came on board yet a lot of taxpayers money continues to be expended to them through UETCL.
That in most cases Electro Maxx blackmails officials at UETCL to pay them a lot of money as advance payment yet they end up delivering only misery to the people of West Nile much of whose electricity-related grievances were attributed to Electro Maxx.
Claiming that even the regulator sometimes fears to crack the whip on them, one of the MPs demanded inquiry into claims that the owners of Electro Maxx are politically well connected.
The MPs were also bitter that the company’s top executives don’t take Parliament seriously which is why Mohammed Kiyimba, a mere manager for the Arua plant, is the one they sent to represent them yet the company is supposed to have a CEO and other more senior officers.
And Kiyimba made things even worse by exhibiting powerlessness each time Electro Maxx was required to give answers clarifying on certain things.
For example, at one of the public meetings, the MPs demanded to know how much fuel Electro Maxx uses or requires to adequately run its thermal generators per day, per week and per month.
Speaking casually, Kiyimba told them he wasn’t empowered or even mandated to answer such questions.
He demanded that MPs put such questions to the company CFO whose identity he said he wasn’t at liberty to reveal.
“I can only respond to technical questions but those other operational details you are asking about I don’t know anything about them,” he told the shocked legislators who reacted by engaging in some sarcastic laughter. He also claimed that, their fuel-related logistical challenges notwithstanding, the people of West Nile ought to appreciate Electro Maxx because of the sacrifice its officials have continued making to boost availability of electricity for their region which was on the verge of sinking into total darkness as of 2018 when they first came on board relocating some of their thermal generators from Tororo in the Eastern Ugandan region of Bukedi.
He claimed they always have reserve fuel to last them for months but couldn’t explain to the MPs how the company came to totally fail its contractual obligations for so many days both in December last year and this year’s July as was reported to MPs. At the prompting of Mukono South MP Fred Kayongo, who was one of the MPs talking ill of Electro Maxx, the Committee Chairperson Emmanuel Otaala demanded that the clerk takes Kiyimba through an oath so as to make him accountable and liable to criminal prosecution because of the untruths and contradicting utterances he kept making during the fact-finding community public meetings the Committee held in West Nile.
In the end, the MPs insisted that Kiyimba coordinates with his superiors in Kampala and furnish the Committee with a wide range of documents that were read out by Emmanuel Otaala relating to the company’s operations.
Kiyimba insisted that they, as Electro Maxx, have done such a good job except that fuel movement-related constraints have crippled them since the beginning of 2021.
An impression was in the end created that Electro Maxx can do some good work generating the mandated 8.2MWs once the fuel component begins to be shouldered by the GoU as a result of the their contract being restructured as the political leadership of the Energy Ministry has been promising.
The company has also been demanding some tax reliefs so that URA relieves their fuel imports of the resultant tax obligations so as to make such diesel cheaper to bring into the country.
The MPs insisted that on Monday, Electro Maxx top executives must appear before the Committee and explain themselves on claims that the Ugandan taxpayer hasn’t been getting value for money from the billions they continue being paid by the GoU through UETCL.