“49% of LEC Subscribers Not Paying Anything”

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John Ashley, LEC's new CEO through ESB International

New management promises to reduce technical, commercial losses, increase connections

The new Chief Executive Officer (CEO), of the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC), John Ashley, says about 49 percent of those subscribing or benefiting from LEC power are not paying anything. Thus, the new management plans to reduce aggregate technical and commercial losses, operational expenditure per kilowatt-hour sold (Tariff reduction) and system interruption, while increasing connections.

Speaking to reporters over the weekend in Monrovia, Mr. Ashley said since taking over on January 8, there has been serious assessment by the entire management team to ascertain the key problems within LEC.

“Making the supply of LEC stable or regular is cardinal to the new management, due to the many power shortages. We will be working also on the issue of power theft that includes bypassing meters among others, which is one of the serious problems in Liberia,” Mr. Ashley noted.

He continued, “We will also disconnect people who failed to make their customer service legal and continue to steal electricity. We will begin finding corrupt employees and making sure that they are prosecuted.”

Ashley comes to LEC as a result of a Management Services Contract (MSC) the company signed in late 2017 with ESB International, a leading engineering and management consultancy firm to the global utility sector.

ESB International is wholly owned by the Irish national electrical utility, ESB, and is headquartered in Dublin, Ireland.

The signing of the MSC constitutes the successful conclusion of a two-year process that began in October 2016 with the ratification of the US$257-million-dollar grant to the Government of Liberia, by the United States Government through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).

In addition to the Government of Liberia, the United States, Norway, Germany, Japan, the European Union, the World Bank, USAID and the African Development Bank, who are all major contributors to Liberia’s energy sector, sit on a High Level Steering Group (HLSG) run by the LEC Board and were regularly updated during the procurement process and final selection ESB International as the new LEC Management Service Contractor.

ESB International has four decades of experience, having worked in 120 countries around the globe with projects implemented in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South East Asia.

Of note, and contrary to a recently published newspaper article, ESB International (ESBI) is currently working for the Electricity Corporation of Ghana, the Ghanaian national power utility, in a engineering advisory and management consultancy role.

ESBI will also be responsible for several key deliverables, which include: Building the capacity of local Liberian managers and staff through a structured and comprehensive training and development program (that will take place both here in Liberia and in Europe), that will ensure the creation of a succession management resource pool.

From this resource pool, a Liberian counterpart staff team will in due course be selected on merit and appointed to work as counterparts to the ESBI management team.

This will ensure that when the ESBI contract expires, a trained and experienced Liberian management team is in place and capable of assuming all aspects of the management of LEC.

The selection of this counterpart team on merit is core to LEC’s succession plan to ensure the sustainability and ongoing viability of all LEC’s business operations in the best interests of the Government of Liberia and the ordinary people of Liberia.

To operate and maintain LEC’s Generation, Transmission and Distribution systems throughout Liberia, To support GoL in achieving targeted levels of connections, electrification and network expansion, To substantially improve the commercial, operating, customers service and financial performance of LEC
The Contract is funded through a grant from the Millennium Challenge Corporation and is for a period of 3 years with the possibility of renewal, by the Government of Liberia, for a further 2 years based on the requirement and ESBI’s performance.

If this extension is given it is envisaged that ESBI would operate with a reduced team who would act as advisors to the newly trained management team.

The new MSC differs in several ways from the previous MSC in the following ways: It has clear performance milestones that must be met to allow payment of the MSC, It brings a much larger team of experienced experts to work alongside and train its Liberian collogues, Unlike the previous MSC, ESBI is responsible for the entire Liberian grid and not just Monrovia, It has a significant training and skills uplift component, It will select all managers on merit and hard work.

The LEC Board of Directors will provide oversight supervision of the MSC throughout its lifespan. In addition, an independent Contract Monitoring Consultant (CMC) will also monitor the MSC and review all reports and performance.

ESBI as the new LEC MSC is proud to adhere to International standards of transparency and anti-corruption without exception or deviation.

With this agreement, ESB International joins LEC with a clear mandate to grow and improve the Liberia National Electricity Grid. The LEC customer base, which currently stands at 49,227 residential and 500 larger customers, will be increased in accordance with system expansion plans.

This is another major milestone in helping the LEC deliver on its core responsibility, which is to increase access to reliable, stable and affordable electricity throughout the country in a safe, prudent and timely manner.

Alvin Worzi is a Liberian journalist with over seven years of professional experience. For the past few years, he has been engaged in covering land issues, security, education, gender related issues, politics, and agriculture. Mr. Worzi is currently the Assistant Secretary General of the Executive Mansion Press Corps (conglomeration of reporters assigned at the Executive Mansion). Mr. Worzi is a member of the Press Union of Liberia.

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