ALMOST 7 DAYS AND COUNTING

Sh1.5bn debt causes blackout at City Hall Annex for a week

Fumbling in the dark. Another blackout in July required city to use a generator

In Summary

• City Hall and Kenya Power have been arguing over debt since 2014.

• County says Kenya Power owes it millions in wayleave and rent arrears. It wants a debt swap. Meantime power is disconnected as interest mounts, residents suffer.

 

Nairobi City County Hall.
CITY HALL: Nairobi City County Hall.
Image: FILE

City Hall is in the dark much of the time. The latest blackout has been almost seven days and counting

Kenya Power said in a statement to the Star on Monday that City Hall has a longstanding Sh1.5 billion debt which has led to disconnection of NCCG premises (City Hall)

The lifts don't work, there's no water in the taps, the toilets don't flush, to say nothing of computers, security and electrical systems.

There's a generator but it's not clear how well it works, how often it works or if it worksat all. The city has allocated Sh13 million for a generator in 2021-22. It's not clear when that will be delivered.

City Hall says that in May, the county assembly allocated Sh691.58 million and cleared the arrears.

City Hall Annexe contains offices of the county executive and a number of departments.

In response to the Star's queries, Kenya Power's head of communications Ann Nderi issued a statement saying:

"Revenue collection is one of the key focus areas in the Kenya Power turnaround strategy for improved business performance, and sustainability. We deploy various methods in our revenue collection initiatives to reduce outstanding debt which in some cases include engagements at various levels to ensure that their bills are paid on time.

"The Nairobi City County Government has a long outstanding electricity debt which has accrued to Sh1.5 billion which has led to Kenya Power disconnecting NCCG premises (City Hall).

"While disconnection is not a preferred option, the company had to do so in view of the mounting debt even as we sustain engagements on the way forward. We hope to come to a mutually beneficial payment agreement to pave way for the restoration of power supply as soon as possible."

Meantime, citizens feel the pain

Resident Tom Mbuthia told the Star he had visited City Hall for two consecutive days and there was no power.

"I had gone to enquire about yellow fever certificate on Friday at noon when I found total darkness...it's quite shameful since this is like a small Parliament," he said.

Workers must take the stairs. A woman employee said the bathrooms are filthy since there's no electricity to pump water.

"You can imagine what the washrooms are like," she said.

The Nairobi County Debt Management Strategy Paper for the financial year ending June 30, 2022, said City Hall owethe power distributor Sh691.58 million. That was paid.

However, another blackout was experienced in July, forcing City Hall to use a generator.

City Hall and Kenya Power have been arguing over debt arrears since 2014. The county says Kenya Power also owes it millions of shillings in wayleave and rent arrears.

Kenya Power has responded by disconnecting electricity to Nairobi county government buildings and institutions in case of any default.

The first outage was in January 2015, when City Hall was plunged into darkness for three days. In 2016, the utility firm threatened to cut off power to City Hall annex, Mama Lucy Hospital, Pumwani Hospital, public primary and nursery schools, and county depots as well as streetlights.

City Hall went to court obtaining an order barring the utility firm from disconnecting power until a case filed by the county was heard and determined.

The court order bought some time but in June 2018, Kenya Power again disconnected supply to City Hall and City Hall Annex for two days, forcing the buildings to use generators.

Nairobi had lost a court battle to stop the state agency from disconnecting power.

The power cut affected City Hall, City Hall annex, county Level 4 hospitals and county street lights over the outstanding bill of Sh748 million at the time.

City Hall had to pay Sh15 million and promise to clear the balance in installments to have electricity reconnected

It places hope in a Sh13 million generator this financial year but that won't settle the debt.

The allocation is part of the Sh128 millon that Ann Kananu's administration is to spend this year on the City Hall building, including painting, renovation and rehabilitation.

The plans, which are to be put in effect this year, are part of the annual development plan for the year ending June 30, 2023.

 

(Edited by V. Graham)