What you need to know:
- The majority state-owned power distributor has since April 2009 embarked on installing prepaid meters with the aim of improving service delivery, cut operational costs, as well as reduce commercial losses associated with customer defaults.
- The new system, therefore, means less work for meter readers who have previously been engaged to collect monthly readings for filing purposes and subsequent billing to customers
- Kenya Power chief executive Joseph Njoroge has allayed fears that the workers could soon be jobless as a result of the automation
Kenya Power is reviewing employment terms for more than 1,500 staff working as meter readers, who are at risk of being rendered redundant once the company completes an automation exercise that is currently underway.
The majority state-owned power distributor has since April 2009 embarked on installing prepaid meters with the aim of improving service delivery, cut operational costs, as well as reduce commercial losses associated with customer defaults.
Less work for readers
The new system, therefore, means less work for meter readers who have previously been engaged to collect monthly readings for filing purposes and subsequent billing to customers.
Under the new system, instead of making payments after receiving monthly bills, customers pay for power upfront.
Speaking last week when he rolled out the second phase of the prepaid meter system that will go countrywide, Kenya Power chief executive Joseph Njoroge, however, allayed fears that the workers could soon be jobless as a result of the automation.
“We have other jobs that these employees can do. They will be redeployed to carry out meter inspection and reconnections,” said Mr Njoroge.
In an interview with Smart Company, the Kenya Electrical Trade and Allied Workers Union (KETAWU) secretary general Ernest Nadome said Kenya Power had since the adoption of the prepaid meters, been “upgrading” the job specifications of the readers so as to accommodate them under the new system.
“The management of Kenya Power has assured us that no person is going home as a result of the automation. Jobs for readers have since the introduction of the prepaid meters been upgraded so that they can serve as meter installation inspectors,” said Mr Nadome.
According to him, the power distributor will still require the services of this workforce, given that it has only connected about 20 per cent of Kenyans to electricity despite growing demand for power over the years.
The company currently employs 8,543 staff, from 7,279 last year. As a result, its annual wage bill has risen to Sh9 billion from Sh7.9 billion.
Cut operating costs
With a planned cut in operating costs among big expectations of the new system, it might be tricky for Kenya Power to maintain the current wage bill and probably more that may come about as a result of the ongoing “upgrade” of the terms of employment for meter readers.
The company plans to spend Sh5 billion in the next 10 months to procure and instal prepaid meters for an additional 520,000 customers.
According to Mr Njoroge, the money will be sourced from both internally generated funds as well as borrowing from multilateral lenders such as the World Bank.
Kenya Power suffered a blow last year when its proposal to review the base tariff that would have seen electricity bills go up drastically was rejected by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) on grounds that consumers needed to be shielded from high costs of living.
The attempt to review the base tariff was made at a time when the economy was hit by a depreciating shilling that saw the local currency slip to a record low of Sh107 against the dollar as well as high rates of inflation fuelled by soaring costs of fuel and food.
Should ERC have paved the way for a base tariff which, according to the law, can be reviewed every three years, Kenya Power would have been advantaged as this could have given the company an avenue to generate funds to finance its expansion plans.
According to ERC, the rates were last reviewed in June 2008, guided by the need to finance power generation projects that were lined up for development at the time, including geothermal plants in Olkaria and the Kipevu thermal power plant.