State rescues 'poor' City Hall from blackout debt

Kenya Power and City Hall have been at loggerheads over debt since 2014; payback deal struck

In Summary

•This year, City Hall has had two blackouts with the situation, saved by a power generator to keep normal operations from being disrupted. 

• Because the cit was badly run, four key functions were turned over to the state's Nairobi Metropolitan Services. They should have included power.  

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

The lights are back on at City Hall.

At last, after almost two weeks of darkness and reliance on a generator. It was the second blackout this year. 

It was so bad the city decided to buy a massive Sh13 million generator for future blackouts. It's not clear when it will be in place.

The problem: the city wasn't paying its power bills and electricity was disconnected to City Hall and City Hall Annex. 

But the national government rode to the rescue, ordered the power restored and brokered a deal to pay off the Sh1.55 billion bill.

This year, City Hall has had two blackouts with the situation being saved by a power generator to avoid normal operations from being interrupted.

Last year in November City Hall relied on generator for three days after supply was cut over a Sh1.2 billion bill.

In a statement released by Kenya Power on Tuesday, the two institutions entered into a payment plan that will clear the debt.

The debt owed to the Company currently stands at Sh1.55 billion. Following meetings between Kenya Power, the county government of Nairobi, and thanks to government intervention, we have entered into a payment plan that will result in the debt being paid in full. In the interim, City Hall is back on supply,” reads the Kenya Power statement.

To improve revenue collection, Kenya Power aims  to collect all money owed, to enable meet its network and service obligations.

City Hall and the power company have been at loggerheads over debt arrears since 2014. The county government says Kenya Power owes it Sh600 million in wayleave and rent arrears.

The first outage was in January 2015, when City Hall was plunged into darkness for three days after disconnection over an outstanding power debt inherited from the defunct city council.

The county government obtained a court order in 2016 barring the utility firm from disconnecting until the case was heard and determined.

Kenya Power had threatened to cut off electricity, City Hall Annes, Mama Lucy Hospital, Pumwani Hospital, public primary and nursery schools, county depots and street lights.

The court order bought some time  ut in June 2018, power was disconnected to City Hall and City Hall Annex for two days of generators.

The county had just lost a court battle to stop the state agency from disconnecting power over mounting debt.

In June 2018, Kenya Power again disconnected power to City Hall, City Hall annex, county Level 4 hospitals and street lights over a Sh748 million debt.

The city had to pay Sh15 million and promise to clear the balance in installments to end the blackouts.

To handle the anticipated arrears and blackouts, City Hall decided to buy a Sh13 million generator. Funds have been allocated but it's not clear when it will be purchased.

The plans are part of the Nairobi County Annual Development Plan for the financial year ending June 30, 2023.

(Edited by V. Graham)

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