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Nairobians fixing meters to avoid bills

Kenya Power may have short-circuited itself by introducing the pre-paid billing system.

For up to Sh3,000, some customers have found a way of by passing its pre-paid meters and now lead electricity bills-free lifestyles.

For the amount, they have been securing the services of electricians who then tamper with the meters.

An electrician who talked to NairobiNews said the most common method is installing a second live wire directly to the mains before it reaches the meter.

Surrounding estates

“Even if the pre-paid meter was to disconnect the supply of electricity after the credit is exhausted, power would still flow into the house,” said the electrician who did not want to be named for fear of incriminating himself.

“The digits showing the remaining units available for consumption at the Consumer Interface Unit, the meter screen, remain static and the consumer is free to use electricity as much he wants,” he said.

Indeed, a bypassed meter seen by NairobiNews showed the same reading after four weeks of observation.

Ideally, the units available for consumption should reduce as electricity is consumed unless the consumer recharges.

The Buruburu electrician has lost count of the number of consumers whose meters he has tampered with, but the list includes commercial consumers like hospitals, restaurants and welders for Sh3,000 and Sh1,500 for domestic consumers.

A former Kenya power worker who lives in Kibera is among the electricians hired to bypass the meters in the slum and surrounding estates like Highrise and Lang’ata.

“Kenya Power hired me to assist them in installing the meters around the slum early this year. But I would later approach the consumers and because no one likes paying bills around here, they readily agreed,” he said under condition of anonymity.

Very few people in the slums are legally connected to the electricity grid and the few who are lucky illegally supply power to their neighbours for around Sh500 a month.

The pre-paid meters were supposed to stem the trade, but the plan appears to have backfired in the slums.

Under a prepaid metering system, a customer is required to make an advance payment by purchasing a token from Kenya Power agents or purchasing units via M-PESA.

After keying in a 20 digit code on the screen the code is accepted and the units automatically bumped up.

It is this absence of meter readers that unscrupulous consumers and electricians seem to be taking advantage of.

Metering systems

Conlog – a South African company commissioned by Kenya Power to provide most of the metering systems says on its website that the prepay meters are tamper proof.

Contacted for comment, Kenya Power said it was aware of the practice.

Nagichu Kiiru, the deputy head of Installations warned other customers against following suit, saying the penalty was stiff if caught.

“We carry out a meter census periodically to ascertain the condition of our meters and if we establish tampering, we punish the culprits,” he said.

Mary Gathoni who lives in Umoja said she was recently fined Sh 5000 for tampering with the Kenya Power meters.