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Lawyer sues Juba electricity distributor on ‘fraud’ allegations

Author: Obaj Okuj | Published: Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Electricians at the JEDCO power transmission in Juba | Credit | JEDCO

An advocate in Juba has filed a lawsuit against the Juba Electricity Distribution Company, JEDCO, over what he called unlawful tariffs charges by the company.

Kiir Chol Deng who is also the applicant accuses JEDCO of fraud after the company allegedly charged him over $22,000 for power connection at his properties -No.1 Block 19 Nyakuron south investment area in Juba.

According to the document, the lawyer placed in a request to the South Sudan Electricity Corporation to have the said properties connected to power on 4th August 2020.

“That in or around 11th August 2020, the respondent -after having visited the site and conducted necessary assessment issued an invoice for connecting the said electricity amounting to $22,192.97,” the lawsuit revealed.

The charges were said to be the cost of materials, labor, machinery, transportation and other costs for installing 200 KVA to the property in question.

Mr. Chol accuses JEDCO of intentionally defrauding the public through excessive fees.

“The public outcry within Juba city of excessive electricity tariffs or charges and fees imposed in US dollars  [is] contrary the objective of the electricity regulatory authority which was intended to protect the interest of consumers in respect to prices, quality, and service levels,” the lawsuit continued.

JEDCO illegality

In the lawsuit, Kiir Chol also petitioned the Chief Registrar for what he described as inconsistent operations of JEDCO which he said is in contravention with the companies Act 2012, National Electricity Act 2016, Public Financial Management and Accountability Act 2011, Ministry of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Development Organization Act, 2008, and the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act 2018.

It alleges that the JEDCO was formed by Ezra Construction and Development Group Ltd with 52 percent shares, while the national Ministry of Energy and Dams holds 48 percent shares.

“The respondent with some government officials in the Ministry of Electricity have been operating private bank accounts…in the names of the said illegal company where all revenue collections from electricity incomes are banked and not accounted for as required by laws governing public funds,” said the claimant.

Mr. Chol insists that the “unlawful privatization of the company without an act of law passed by the national parliament…is a serious departure from the National Electricity Act 2012, or other applicable laws” in South Sudan.

He now seeks the immediate investigation and possible prosecution of JEDCO by the Chief Registrar.

Through his law firm, Advocate Chol requested the Chief Registrar to ascertain the legality of the company’s operations in the country, privatization of the company without the consent of the parliament, and institute an audit into the private accounts of the company.

In response to the lawsuit, a JEDCO staff who declined to reveal his name said “we are very much aware of the lawsuit,” but “Ezra feels like there’s no need to respond to Eye Radio.”

In November 2019, the President launched the first phase of the Juba’s electrification project.

The 33 megawatts power Plan Project is a joint venture between the government and Ezra Power Company with funds from the African Development Bank.

Ezra Company will operate the $38 million power plant for about 17 years and then transfer ownership to the government, according to the Ministry of Electricity.

But since the company began supplying power in selected areas in November, the power-lines have caught fire in various locations on several occasions.

By June, the company said it connected about 9,990 households, 3,550 businesses, and 200 governmental institutions to the grid.

It, however, accused some individuals of illegally connecting to the power-line. The overload is reportedly causing electrical sparks and fires in the residential areas.

The company’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Binyam Mihretab mantained that about 20,000 households, businesses, and institutions are expected to get electricity by the end of 2020.

President Kiir previously announced that South Sudan would also connect to a 400 KV line from Karuma in Uganda to Juba by 2023.

He said the country will also develop its hydropower resources –mainly in Fulla, near Nimule.

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