Along the streets of Kampala, there is a new unsightly and quite dangerous feature running above the heads of pedestrians. Small wires carrying live current are awkwardly tied to metallic poles in some instances with polythene sheets to power street lights.
According to those familiar with electricity, the small 2.5mm wires, designed for in-door use, were connected by KCCA contractors, directly to high voltage current without stepping it down, something that poses serious dangers to the public.
Experts speak of numerous dangers that await unsuspecting city dwellers including electrocution and loss of property arising from current overload, and the open hanging wires.
The loose connections were hastily improvised in preparation for the recent visit by Pope Francis last month but have remained on the streets of Kampala dangerously exposed to the hot sun and the constant rains. This comes even after Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) reportedly received Ushs16billion from government to revamp street lighting in Kampala.
Isaac Kalema, a trained electrician explains the dangers of KCCA’s suicide connections: “First of all, they made a serious mistake in using low voltage wires that have very weak insulators. This means that they swell whenever they get exposed to the hot sun. “Secondly, those small wires cannot distribute heavy load current throughout the city.
“Thirdly, the small wires are single phase wires that were connected to three-phase wires, raising the danger of short circuit that arises from failure by the low voltage wires to support current flow.
This is very dangerous because it can cause fire outbreaks across the city, but also cause electrocution in case people touch the connections.”
In some areas such as the road from Kampala to Ggaba, the street lights do not go off suggesting that they were connected in a cowboy fashion without a switch.
The scary phenomenon suggests also that the power consumed is not metered thus raising the prospect of an increase in power losses by the energy distributor UMEME which ends up swelling the bill of unsuspecting innocent consumers.
The scary phenomenon has triggered a barrage of criticisms from sections of the population against the city authority for exhibiting incompetence and putting the lives of millions of people in imminent danger.
Renowned social critic Frank Gashumba of Sisimuka Uganda, raised the red flag over the dangerous connection along Kampala streets in the run up to the pontiff’s visit last week.
“I can’t stand such a situation where lives of millions of Ugandans are put at risk by these dangerously sagging wires. Many of them are living under morbid fear that they will drop any time and cause loss of lives. This is suicidal and the earlier KCCA sorts out this mess the better for Ugandans, ” said Gashumba.
According to KCCA’s Executive Director Jenifer Musisi, the Authority requisitioned Ushs25b out of which only Ushs16 was released by the Ministry of Finance towards the beautification of Kampala as part of the Capital city’s preparation for the Pope’s visit.
Rubaga South Member of Parliament John Ken Lukyamuzi (MP) told The Sunrise that what Jennifer Musisi has done was in contravention of the law and that Parliament will not allow her to run away with it.
“It is unfortunate that this has happened when Parliament is already in recess but am certain that the Sessional Committee of Physical Infrastructure will take a keen interest in this matter and investigate it immediately the House resumes business, ” Lukyamuzi added.
Like other legislators, Lukyamuzi wants KCCA to explain why they failed in this rush project to give Ugandans value for money from the amount of funds they received from the Ministry of Finance.
“Jennifer Musisi and her team owe Ugandans an explanation reconciling the amount of money they received with the shoddy work they actually delivered,” added Lukyamuzi.
Busiro County Constituency MP Medard Lubega Ssegona blamed it on the fact that the Authority flouted the tendering process explaining that KCCA hand-picked inexperienced service providers who delivered shoddy work.
“This is a reflection of how leaders at KCCA were brought into office without a censorship to ensure quality. It is not any wonder that they are just handpicking service providers in a similar style at the peril of Ugandans,” Ssegona said.
Godfrey Mununula, a jewelry vendor at Luwuum Street worried: “This explains why and how Ugandan tax payers have continued to collapse under untold weight of tax burdens they least deserve to carry.”
Efforts to get a comment from KCCA proved futile as both spokespersons Peter Kauju and his deputy Robert Kalumba declined to comment on the matter.
The scandal has also exposed the innefficiencies of several institutions including UMEME and the power sector regulator Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) that hold players to stated standards of good practice.
Efforts by The Sunrise to get a comment from UMEME’s spokesperson Stephen Ilungole were futile as he declined to pick our calls.