From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Ernest, Afsatu & Income Electrix! What is the way forward?
By Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
Oct 22, 2008, 17:20

I have no doubt of the following fact:- President Ernest Bai Koroma wishes to succeed in making the lives of his fellow citizens much better. I also do not believe that he collected any cash from Income Electrix either before or after the elections. I just feel that Mr. President is in a hurry to succeed at raising our standard of living but in the process, he keeps on figuratively falling all over himself. It does not help matters that he has a team of people he has brought together who might all have their own individual agenda to promote.

Some of the President’s aides are looking for World Bank/IMF jobs. Others are looking for ways in which their selfish ambitions to eventually become President of Sierra Leone can be realised. Still others are plain and simply deeply loyal to the lofty ideals of Mr. President. They fervently believe in his capacity to make life better for the common man in Sierra Leone. Haja Afsatu Olayinka Kabba, Minister of Energy and Power perfectly falls into this latter category of loyalists.

Haja Afsatu Kabba, a highly trained and fully qualified Chartered Insurer and one of Sierra Leone’s foremost recognised International Peace Activists, is one person I knew before she became a minister. In the period of time since my return home to the time the APC won the Presidency, there is one distinct thing I can say about Haja Afsatu: She never stopped telling me about how wonderful Ernest Koroma was and how good he would be for Sierra Leone!

I also have no doubt in my mind that Haja Afsatu means well and wants to improve upon the condition of living here especially for those of us who in this modern day and age have to live without reliable electricity supply.

The determination of Afsatu to ensure Ernest Koroma succeeds, led her to pass on her enthusiasm to the Income Electrix people who were so overwhelmed that they overlooked a vital aspect of any contract: DUE DILIGENCE. In the same vein, the Ernest Koroma Government failed to undertake a feasibility study of the proposed Project which would have revealed the horrible state of our Power Transmission lines that currently makes it uneconomically viable to produce and sell electricity through the existing grid.

Some say as high as 60% of all power generated gets “wasted” as they pass through the electricity grid of Freetown. Amazing ehn? But! the Government which was eager to score political points over their arch rivals in the SLPP political party jumped in with all the enthusiasm possible without covering all bases. In other words, they did not look before they leaped.

So, what is the way forward? Some 35MW of brand new machines are already on the ground here. Income Electrix has a valid contract and Freetown still needs reliable electricity. But! the state of the Transmission and Distribution Power Lines need to be completely overhauled alongside the billing and revenue generation systems in place at the National Power Authority. Low staff remuneration and poor conditions of service are the catalysts for the nefarious income losing and damaging activities at NPA.

Now, here comes the interesting part. It would appear that, Income Electrix is willing to work with Ernest Koroma under strenuous conditions to see Sierra Leone’s electrification dreams come true. Income Electrix, although it is a corporate entity, is like Haja Afsatu Kabba in a lot of ways. Whilst other such corporate entities finding themselves in such a debacle, might have been dusting the law books off the shelves to drag the Koroma Government to court, Income Electrix is looking at other possible options.



Now, one way to make everyone a winner is to simply change the existing laws that make it impossible for an Independent Power Provider (IPP) to sell electricity to end-users. These archaic laws could be quickly amended by Parliament so that Income Electrix would be given a segment of Freetown where they could repair the ailing Transmission and Distribution Grid and use the modernized Grid to conduct electricity to homes and factories that could then be billed and revenue collected by a more streamlined and efficient billing system than the one presently being used by NPA. That way, the Government has no more obligations to Income Electrix but that segment of Freetown gets clean, high quality constant electricity and Income Electrix collects revenue to pay their debts off back.

So far, the proposal seems to have caught the attention of some of the major stakeholders. It is a seed being planted for now but, properly cultivated, it could grow and bloom into the perfect workable solution that could get our country out of this fiscal mess that NPA cannot solve. It will require multi-partisan efforts in Parliament and will need the support of the Civil Society. However, given the alternative (Litigation! Philips Brothers! Etc. etc.), this proposal seems to be God sent.

In summary, let Parliament legislate for Income Electrix to be given the right to supply, bill and collect revenue from the entire East of Freetown from Clock Tower to Waterloo whilst Income Electrix agrees that all obligations currently owed to them by us be immediately nullified. Do I hear an aye anywhere?

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.