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Blackout at City Hall over Sh1.5 billion Kenya Power debt

The county Executive had in October paid Sh50 million to reduce the arrears owed to Kenya Power.

In Summary

• Last month, Nairobi county offices were in darkness for almost two weeks.

• It took the intervention of the national government to have Kenya Power reconnect power.

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

City Hall has been plunged into darkness for 10 days after Kenya Power cut electricity connection over a Sh1.55 billion bill.

City Hall annex, which has more than nine floors is in darkness, while both the Executive and assembly wing have been forced to use generators to ensure there is no interruption of services.

Kenya County Government Workers Union Nairobi staff branch Secretary Festus Ngari said the power cut has forced some staff not to report to work.

“Some of our staff have refused to go to work due to lack of power as some are physically challenged hence cannot use the stairs as the lifts are not working. The computers are off therefore work is not flowing,” he said.

In order to address the issue, the Executive had in October paid Sh50 million to reduce the arrears owed to Kenya Power, but electricity was still cut.

In a letter dated November 30, 2021 seen by the Star, county chief officer for Finance Mohamed Sahal noted that the the blackout has  seen interruption of various activities at City Hall.

“Kenya Power disconnected power supply to City Hall facilities two weeks ago due to power bill arrears. This was after the initial payment of Sh50 million in October 2021 as agreed between the county government and Kenya Power saw interruption of then of various activities,” reads the letter addressed to the Controller of Budget.

Last month, Nairobi county offices were in darkness for almost two weeks after Kenya Power cut electricity supply to City Hall and City Hall Annex.

It took the intervention of the national government to have Kenya Power reconnect power.

Kenya Power said two institutions entered into a payment plan that will result in the Sh1.55 billion debt being paid in full.

Going further, Sahal stated that Kenya Power had issued a notice of Sh1.5 billion on November 9, 2021, a time when the county is in process of initiating the supplementary budget for the Financial year 2020-21.

As a result, the Executive has requested the Controller of Budget to release Sh100 million as a down payment to Kenya Power.

The expenditure will be regularised through the supplementary budget for FY 2021-22 in accordance with the PFM Act 2012 provisions.

"In the light of the above, we request your consideration and approval of Sh100 million to Kenya Power from the Nairobi County Revenue Fund Account No. 100011863 to Nairobi County Recurrent Account No.1000171502 to facilitate the payment," reads the letter .

Kenya Power and City Hall have been at loggerheads over debt arrears since 2014, with the county government claiming Kenya Power also owes it Sh600 million in wayleave and rent arrears.

The first outage played out in January 2015, when City Hall was plunged into darkness for three days after disconnection by Kenya Power over an outstanding power supply debt inherited from the defunct City Council.

The county government went to court in 2016 and obtained an order barring the utility firm from disconnecting power to its facilities until the case was heard and determined.

This followed a threat by Kenya Power to cut off power supply to City Hall annex, Mama Lucy Hospital, Pumwani Hospital, public primary and nursery schools and county depots as well as streetlights.

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

This was after the county government lost a court battle to stop the State agency from disconnecting power supply to its facilities.

In June 2018, Kenya Power yet again disconnected power to City Hall, City Hall annex, county Level 4 hospitals and county street lights over the outstanding power bill which stood at Sh748 million at the time.

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

To encounter its frequent power blackouts due to unpaid arrears, City Hall opted to purchase a Sh13 million generator in this Financial Year 2021-22.

The allocation is part of the Sh128 million that the AnnE Kananu-led administration is set to spend this year on different projects to give the City Hall building a new image through repainting, renovation and rehabilitation.

The plans which will be actualised this year, are contained in the Nairobi County Annual Development Plan for the financial year ending June 30, 2023.

 

Edited by CM