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Sonko left powerless for third consecutive day

Nairobi County offices have been plunged into darkness for the third day running after Kenya Power cut electricity supply to City Hall and City Hall Annex over a Sh1.2 billion outstanding power bill.

The electricity cut began on Wednesday and has seen county offices rely on a generator to supply power to some section of the offices.

The generator can only supply power to the county assembly and the governor’s wing leaving most offices to operate without power.

This has led to disruption of operations in most county offices located in the two buildings with some getting closed while staff and those seeking services forced to use the stairs to access remaining offices, some up to the seventh floor.

“The outage began on Wednesday and we have been forced to use generator to operate. We were told the power blackout was due to unpaid bill,” said a security officer manning one of the entrances to the two buildings.

When reached for comment, Governor Mike Sonko’s spokesperson Ben Mulwa said the power supply was cut off on Tuesday night following the county government’s failure to clear the outstanding arrears.

The power blackout, he said, had crippled delivery of services in offices in City Hall and City Hall Annex indefinitely.

Mulwa explained that City Hall had been unable to service the debt this year due to the delays in passage of the county’s annual budget.

This, therefore, makes the county government unable to pay the bill since the Finance department, as things currently stand, cannot make payments since a request for the same cannot be approved by the controller of budget (COB) until a budget is passed and uploaded on the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS).

“We are, however, currently in talks with Kenya Power to try and get them to turn the lights back on in order to salvage our operations,” said Mr Mulwa.

“These are already ongoing discussions but Kenya Power has insisted that they need a settlement of about Sh170 million before we can now agree on a way forward on the issue of what is outstanding to each other,” he added.

He, nonetheless, explained that the bill should be around Sh400 million if Kenya Power agrees to a debt swap as they owe City Hall Sh800 million in unpaid wayleave rates.

On his part, acting Nairobi County Secretary Justus Kathenge confirmed that the power blackout is as a result of the unpaid bill but expressed optimism that the situation will be resolved soon.

“The issue is being looked at and it will be resolved soon. There has been an issue also with accessing Ifmis to invoice the payment as we cannot pay them manually. We are also looking into a debt swap as they owe us money and we also owe them some,” said Mr Kathenge.

However, this is not the first time that Kenya Power is disconnecting electricity to Nairobi County government buildings or institutions.

The two 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.

With egg on its face, 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 operations in the two county buildings to resort to generators to power its activities.

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 streetlights over the outstanding power bill which stood at Sh748 million at the time.

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