Local suppliers must pass Kenya Power quality test


Local suppliers must pass Kenya Power quality test

Thursday June 02 2022

A Kenya Power and Lighting Company employee inspects a meter box at the Kosovo area of ​​Mathare slums. PHOTO | HEZRON NJOROGE | NMG

Local companies need to meet the high quality of electricity meters that Kenya Power is demanding if they are to benefit from the utility’s multi-billion shilling procurement budget.

A dispute has arisen between the parties, with the local firms accusing the electricity distributor of setting terms that can only be met by foreign companies.

They argue that this is discriminatory and violates the Constitution.

But Kenya Power, in its response, says single-phase and three-phase meters bought from local suppliers have high failure rates.

Replacing the defective meters, the company says, has cost it colossal sums of money, while the meter failures have dented its image and reduced customer satisfaction levels.

Kenya Power maintains that the large manufacturers which supply quality meters tend to be foreign firms and it is buying from them based on merit alone.

Given the essential nature of electricity supply, we believe the utility has done the right thing to prioritize quality in its purchase decisions.

This does not mean that local firms should lose out entirely. They should work closely with Kenya Power to identify areas of improvement in their meter design and manufacturing to meet the electricity distributor’s quality requirements.

There is also the possibility of joint ventures with large foreign manufacturers. This can be aided by, among others, policy interventions and incentives.

Foreign suppliers producing the meters locally on their own or through a joint venture with a local firm, for instance, can be given priority to supply Kenya Power.

The issue of reliable electricity supply and for that matter, Kenya Power’s financial health is not one that can be solved through zero-sum litigation.

The company has in the past lost billions of shillings through the purchase of substandard equipment, including transformers.

It appears to have learned from this experience and is taking steps to fix the problem. Any money spent on inferior quality equipment is wasted.

It is important to support local industries but it cannot be at any cost. The local assemblers must up their game.

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