Politics and policy
Telephone, power cable thieves face Sh5m fine or 10 years in jail
Posted Sunday, June 24 2012 at 17:24
Convicted telephone and electricity cable thieves will pay a Sh5 million fine or serve up to 10 years in jail if President Kibaki accepts Parliament’s changes to legislation on vandalism.
The changes have strengthened the regulators’ power to deal with rampant destruction and theft of utility equipment such as internet cables and electricity transformers.
Attorney-General Githu Muigai initiated the changes as part of the amendments he introduced in the House last Wednesday to protect those who have invested in key national infrastructure.
The penalties were enhanced through amendments to the Kenya Information and Communications Act 1998 and the Energy Act 2006 , which are now awaiting presidential assent.
Under the current laws, destruction of electricity and power cables is punishable by a fine of Sh100,000, a jail term of three years or both.
Key players in the utility services market welcomed the changes, saying it was the only way to save the billions of shillings they lose to thieves and vandals every year.
“The continued treatment of vandalism as a petty crime is the reason many criminals continue in the act with devastating consequences,” said Kenya Power corporate communications manager Migwi Theuri. “The new laws should help us to effectively deal with the problem.”
Turkana Central MP Ekwee Ethuro backed up the enhanced penalties with a broader definition of vandalism as contained in Section 25 of the Communications Commission Act and the Energy Act.
“We must give the CCK and the Energy Regulatory Commission more teeth to deal with those who interfere with infrastructure that is critical to our country’s development,” Mr Ethuro said.
Mr Theuri said vandals have mainly targeted Kenya Power’s distribution lines and cables as well as transformers, leaving the company with huge losses and at loggerheads with consumers outraged by power outages.
Kenya Power suffered Sh800 million loss in the first five months of the year in missed business opportunities and replacement of stolen or vandalised equipment.
Destruction of power cables or transformers has frequently left consumers in darkness with grave consequences on the company’s relationship with its consumers.
Water and telecoms companies have also suffered similar consequences with rampant destruction of pipes or cables leaving consumers’ taps dry or without telephone or internet connection.
Parliament has now expanded the definition of vandalism to include wilful, negligent, reckless and/or malicious acts of stealing, damaging or breaking into communication apparatus, lines, installations, hardware, software or stations used for telecommunication services and systems.
Mr Ethuro also targeted saboteurs who interfere with communication services, prescribing jail terms of at least 10 years, a fine of Sh10 million or both.