Electricity consumers have all the right to feel shortchanged by the government’s plan to load onto them up to Sh8.1 billion in backdated power bills.
The lack of transparency on the matter will be especially hard to take for businesses and households that will be caught unawares by the sharp increase in the monthly charges.
The least that the Ministry of Energy should have done was to alert consumers that it had suspended factoring of fuel cost charges in their monthly bills, the reason for doing that and a plan on how the amount was to be recovered later on.
It appears, however, that the political season was not favourable for the government to make full disclosures.
With a biting drought that had triggered a surge in the cost of food and the General Election looming, a decision was made to suspend increase of fuel cost charges between February and August.
Instead, Kenya Power #ticker:KPLC disclosed in ambiguous terms the backdated charges deep inside its financial statements with the hope that it would implement the bills quietly without as much as the consumers noticing. With the elections now gone, Kenya Power has quickly started implementing the charges, which have already inflated consumers’ monthly bills.
The high bills are set to distort consumers’ budgets, with little recourse to them. The secrecy is unfair and a demonstration of a government that is not willing to disclose the full truth to its citizens.
The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), which is in charge of protecting consumers’ interests, must review how Kenya Power has handled this matter.
The ERC must also evaluate the weight of the load being passed on to consumers with the aim of ensuring that it is fair and reasonable. More importantly, the regulator should formulate a policy for dealing with similar situations in future.
There must be a clear policy on circumstances in which energy bills can be suspended, backdated and even staggered.
Such action must be done with full disclosure to the public announcing the reasons for actions taken and how such decisions would affect their monthly power bills.