Power authority bets on higher ranking to light up more homes

The Rural Electrification Authority (REA) is banking on its promotion to a higher ranking to accelerate provision of power in rural areas.

The authority has received approval from the State Corporation Advisory Committee to upgrade to Category Two from Three. With the new category, the agency will, among other things, be allocated more funds by the Treasury as well as employ more staff and remunerate them at competitive rates.

“This is a significant step as it will allow us to do a lot of things that we were unable to do under Category Three,” said REA chairman Simon Gicharu.

With the new status, its budgetary allocation from the Treasury will rise by about Sh300 million annually.

One of the biggest obstacles to the authority’s work, Mr Gicharu said, has been inadequate staff and inability to retain experienced and highly skilled employees.

This has made it difficult for the authority to properly monitor and follow up on projects across the country.

“Staffing has been our key handicap. Because we do not have enough manpower, we have been forced to hire external services. This is not only costly but it leads to poor workmanship,” he said.

“The new category will enable us to hire the best and retain them as we will be able to remunerate them at competitive rates,” the chairman said, adding that employees have been leaving the company citing poor pay.”

To meet the manpower needs of the new organisation structure, the authority plans to employ 190 more people, taking its total workforce to 481. Currently the authority has 291 employees, of whom 113 are on contract.

“We will employ about 70 technical workers and about 30 administrative officials. This will see us do away with outsourcing of services,” he said.

To fast-track delivery of services, the REA board says the authority will be restructured into three directorates headed by general managers. The directorates are: strategy and planning; corporate services; and technical services. They will be led by interim managers until substantive office holders are appointed.

The authority says it is now setting its sights on promotion to Category One. “We seek to ride on the new position to work towards attainment of category one status,” Mr Gicharu said.

Being classified under category one will mean the agency will be in the same league as parastatals such as Kenya Power #ticker:KPLC and Kenya Pipeline. “Our aim is to be self-sustainable by commercialising our power-generation projects,” the chairman said.

READ: Sh1.3bn taxpayer burden for lighting 17 off-grid towns

Making REA a commercial entity means it will no longer have to hand over its facilities to Kenya Power.

This will squarely place the agency in competition with the power distributor, something that the authority says will translate into improved services for consumers.

The promotion comes at a time when the authority is accelerating its rural electricity projects. It plans to spend Sh700 million to install seven diesel–powered generators (Gensets) in off-grid areas, thereby enabling more Kenyans in far-flung regions to access electricity.

The REA has already established a Genset station in Garissa at a cost of Sh100 million. The plant has been handed over to Kenya Power.

Gensets under construction are Kamorliban, Kakuma, Lokiriama, Kotulo, Banisa and Maikona. Mr Gicharu said that once completed, they will be handed over to Kenya Power.

He said the agency already has a Sh14 billion power plant with a capacity to generate 55 megawatts. “We will use this power to connect more primary schools this year,” he added. About 22,590 primary schools have already been connected at a cost of Sh30 billion as part of efforts to implement digital learning.

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