Friday, 15 April 2011

200bn energy funds diverted, Onek at war with Norwegian firms

Power outages are back. Although many citizens have not noticed this, I have held discussions with some senior technocrats in government and they tell me that other than the Shs605bn supplementary budget passed and diverted to fund President Yoweri Museveni's re-election, another Shs200bn meant for subsidising thermal power generation, was also diverted and stolen.
Apparently, most thermal power plants are operating below capacity and therefore, unable to generate enough power. This explains why UMEME, the sole energy distributor, is at a loss on what to tell the consumers.
They have instead decided to cut power supply to some areas, a move that in the past generated alot of  heat from the stressed consumers.
The energy sector, which President Museveni keeps saying is the mover of the country's economy, is unfortunately the one where the government's chief Mafia reside. Several government officials make huge deals in this sector.
The technocrats tell me that they are lost for words. They cannot explain why there is power outages [ locally known as loadshedding] now yet the country has several thermal power plants that were set up as an emergency response in 2005 when the power outages were atributed to the low water levels in Lake Victoria. This time, the water levels are Okay but the thermal power plants have not been subsidised. The money obviously diverted to politics and most of it stolen.
Meanwhile, the rapacious Energy Minister Hillary Onek has again put on hold the award of contracts to firms to build the Karuma Power Dam. Onek whose hatred for Norwegian firms is an open secret, has reportedly asked the Uganda Electricity Generation Company which was handling the tendering process, not to open the bids. The reason for this directive is because firms of his choice were not qualified.
Mr Onek ran into trouble with Norwegian firms after he entered into partnership with Norplan to form Norpak with the aim of building Karuma power Dam but the project fell through for lack of money. The two parties later disgareed over sharing of  US $3.3 million compensation by the government for their intellectual rights. Its said that the minister wanted Norplan to give him a sizeable cut but the norwegian gave peanuts.
Because of this, most Norwegian firms engaged in Energy, are having difficult times with Minister Onek.

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