Local contractors have been unable to supply Kenya Power with special long-life bulbs required for the Sh10 billion street lighting plan, prompting the utility firm to turn to foreign suppliers.
Ben Chumo, Kenya Power managing director said they have had to revise their earlier plans to restrict the tender for the Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs to local firms and instead seek external suppliers like Philips.
Kenya Power is installing 12,959 new public lighting masts and 54,029 street lights at a cost Sh10 billion in the project whose funding partners included the Treasury and City Hall.
The first phase involved installing new lights on the 13.5 kilometre missing links roads and rehabilitation of existing lights and poles along 338 streets in and around the capital city.
The plans call for the use of white light LED bulbs that consume half the power of traditional yellow bulbs. According to Kenya Power, LED bulbs can also go up to 20 years without being replaced.
“The challenge we are currently having is with local suppliers who are unable to meet the demand. Out of the 705 lamps needed for the 13.5 kilometres missing link stretch only 144 lamps have been provided by local suppliers,” said Mr Chumo.
“We are now engaging three external suppliers, but I can’t mention names,” Mr Chumo said.
The government has been pursuing the strategy of restricting part of mega tenders to local investors to boost their businesses and allow them to hire more Kenyans in an economy where unemployment rate stands at 40 per cent.
But Kenya Power is set to miss its April deadline for lighting up Nairobi’s streets following delays in disbursement of funds in the project announced late last year.
The electricity distributor has so far only received Sh953 million of the total budget, money it has already began spending to rehabilitate existing lights and poles in and around the capital city.
The first tranche of Sh371 million was released in October while Sh582 million arrived towards February, a delay which has now forced Kenya Power to push its targeted completion date to June.
National Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich on Monday pledged support for the project when he took over the Energy docket in acting capacity after Davis Chirichir stepped down over graft allegations.
The electricity distributor says the Sh9.04 billion balance will be mainly used to install new street lights and poles in areas where none exist.
Kenya Power in October secured the deal to install 54,029 street lights on Nairobi’s major commercial and residential areas, in a grand attempt to turn the city into a 24-hour economy.
The plan will see streets in the Central Business District, Westlands as well as residential areas like Eastleigh, Kahawa West, Buru Buru and Embakasi get lit up.
Industrial areas set to benefit from the plan include Baba Dogo, Kariobangi Light Industries, and Industrial Area.