— Launches ‘anti-power theft’ task force
Authorities at the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) have launched an anti-power theft task force in the country that will help boost the economy through lawful revenue collection for the government through the LEC.
The launch, which took place on November 9 at the Paynesville City Park, brought together development partners including the World Bank, European Union, Liberia Electricity Regulatory Authority, and community dwellers, as well as officers of the Liberia National Police and AFL.
It can be recalled that the United States Ambassador to Liberia, Michael McCarthy, in August of 2021 warned that America and other major international partners may withdraw their support to Liberia’s energy sector if the government failed to stop widespread power theft that is crippling the sector.
“... If we are taking all this money from taxpayers and the result is that people of Liberia are living for free, eventually, our Congress will say, we are not going to appropriate any more money for that project. And I think all of the donor countries feel the same way, I will assume,” he said when asked about the consequences of the menace.
The United States, through the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact, spent $257 million over the period of five years, primarily on the rehabilitation of the Mt. Coffee Hydropower Plant, the largest source of power in the country and Liberia's most valuable fixed asset. The compact, which ended in January this year, in addition to resuscitating the hydro, supported the creation of an independent energy sector regulator and developed a training program for technicians in the electricity sector, among others.
However, speaking at the launch of the anti-power theft task force, Monie R. Captan, chief executive officer of LEC and chairman of the anti-power theft taskforce, told Liberians that the country loses around US$48 million a year to power theft, leaving the burden to recover those funds on the honest customers, government and support partners.
He noted that the government is confronted with several demands including rice, road, security and water problems, amongst others, as well as the already limited resources of the government that should not be used to pay losses accrued from power theft.
Captan said the only way electricity can be sustained in the country is when consumers pay for it; else the country will soon run out of electric power and be left in darkness.
According to him, community leaders should be the ones fighting power theft, even though LEC is not perfect: “We have bad apples at LEC… and we need to strengthen and clean it up, okay? So, I am not going to say we are perfect, but I need you to work with me.”
He added, “When there is no transformer, there will be no power theft anyway. We all need to work together. Without electricity, there can never be development. This economy in our country will not go anywhere if we don’t have electricity, and to show that LEC is successful, we want to work with the community to make sure that we become successful. Now, when we launch this program and start to go to various communities, we need the cooperation of everyone here.
"We have thousands of meters here with us,” he continued. “So, when we get to your community, do not be afraid; come to us and tell us, ‘I don’t have a meter’; we will register you right there and connect you.”
Captan told the gathering that LEC is there to solve problems, but needs the help of community dwellers.
“We are not here to fight anybody. We are not enemies of anyone; we are here to work together and ensure that the policies of the government are achieved.”
According to the CEO, LEC wants to give confidence to all of their partners that the investments they are making are well-managed and used responsibly.
“So, let’s work together, and I told my team that without community engagement, we are doomed to failure,” Captan said.
Mary Broh, Co-Chair of the LEC anti-power theft taskforce, praised President Weah for giving her the opportunity to work with the LEC to reduce power theft.
She said her involvement with the team is to ensure that Liberians who are paying current bills get the best services that they pay for.
Broh assured a strong collaboration with community leaders to ease the stress of getting the LEC transformers and meters.
She noted that her team will deal with anyone involved in the act of power theft and not even their lawmakers will be able to help them.
Broh said that her team will fine and prosecute anyone caught in the act before issuing new meters to be legally connected to the power grid; an approach she termed as “disconnecting to reconnect.”
“So if you dare go to any lawmaker to report me, ‘dog eat yourself’ because you will be impeding our work. We will not be rude to you; we will deal with you as a customer; we will give that respect, but the moment you begin to shift, I will shift with you,” she added.