Faulty transformers at the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company’s (Ketraco) sub-stations have been the cause of frequent power outages around the country, an internal audit report on the parastatal says.
The power failures’ real impact is dilution of quality of supply that ultimately drives businesses into extra costs that are passed on to taxpayers in form of expensive goods from the manufacturers.
Inflated cost of maintaining the transformers has also seen Ketraco spend extra millions to keep the main lines powered, making it yet another public finance management disaster.
Ketraco, which is tasked with evacuating power from the generation stations to sub-stations for onward distribution by Kenya Power #ticker:KPLC, has badly protected and poorly maintained substations that are the primary cause of the frequent outages.
First flagged by the audit is the World Bank funded 7.5 Mega Volt Amp sub-station in Mwingi that was commissioned barely a year ago and which broke down slightly after a year in operation.
The auditors have questioned Ketraco’s decision to borrow a replacement from the Rumuruti sub-station to resolve the power outage in the interim instead of compelling ABB South Africa (the contractor) to replace it.
The measure is said to have been only temporary and marked as high risk with possibility of failure.
“Such malfunctions would have adverse consequences in the form of financial losses, power outages and the associated opportunity cost, reputation damage as well as threat to life. In addition, there remains fears of similar malfunctions of the other three transformers installed at Awendo, Kitale and Garissa,” the auditors wrote.
The Mwingi and Garissa transformers were critical in connecting North Eastern Kenya to the national power grid after years of reliance on diesel generators.
Work on the Sh822 million Garissa substation, which was part of Ketracos Kindaruma-Mwingi-Garissa project, started in July 2012 with World Bank funding.
In Nairobi, the length and integrity of the Sh1.1 billion 220KV underground cable connecting Embakasi to the city substations could not be guaranteed.
The auditors found that the cables were shorter by 1.75 kilometres while the contractor was paid in full.
The cables were later vandalised three times in what would later be contested by the contractor (Siemens) as sabotage, leaving Ketraco with a Sh944 million repair bill.
Auditors could not lay their hands on the vandalism report, throwing into doubt whether there was actually any damage or if indeed it was just ‘sabotage ‘but which necessitated repairs amounting to 84 per cent of the original cost of putting up the cables.
Ketraco in a full page advertisement in local dailies on Monday confirmed having incurred the exorbitant repair costs while dismissing several other audit queries pointing to a Sh6 billion scandal at the firm in inflated tenders and wasteful expenditure.
The Embakasi line supplies the city including heavy industries that rely on power stability to produce goods and services. Businesses pass down costs of diesel powered generators whenever they are forced to turn them on during outages.