‘Make Power Theft A Felony’

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LEC's CEO John Ashley (left): “Power theft is a matter of economic sabotage and it should be taken very seriously by all Liberians..."

LEC loses US$35M yearly to power theft, Gov’t owes US$8.8m

The Chief Executive Officer of the Liberia Electricity Corporation John Ashley says if the Liberian government does not make power theft a felony, the country’s economy will deteriorate, with LEC not been able to make any significant financial input to the economy.

Speaking at LEC Security Department’s certification program yesterday for its employees, who had completed a three-month basic security training to tackle power theft, Ashley said: “the LEC should be the engine for economic growth in Liberia, but this can only happen if the law is changed and enforced by the relevant authority.”

“Power theft is a matter of economic sabotage and it should be taken very seriously by all Liberians and the only way we can contain it is by changing the law to felony,” Ashley observed.

Ashley said the law provides minimum punishment for power theft. “When a person is arrested and charged with power theft, the accused normally by law can pay as little as US$10 for bond, and later that individual goes free.”

The program was organized by the Center for Criminal Justice Research and Education of the Liberia National Law Enforcement Association (LINLEA) and was held at the conference room of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA).

Ashley said the LEC is currently working with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to make some amendments on the power theft law by upgrading it from misdemeanor to felony.

He disclosed that since they launched an inspection of communities over power theft, the LEC has managed to disconnect over 1,500 homes in Monrovia.

Earlier, Atty. Abraham Mitchell, Legal Counsel at the Ministry of Justice who served as a guest speaker, reminded his audience that private security, including the LEC, is a corporate partner of the National Security architecture.

He disclosed that his ministry has been in the process to reform and improve private security and performing professional operations in the country.

Describing why the LEC has not been able to live to the expectations of the general public in its distribution of power, he said while power theft causes the corporation US$35 million to power theft yearly, the Liberian government owes US$3.4 million to the LEC and the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC) is also indebted to the corporation in the amount of US$2.4 million.

Several communities in Monrovia and its environs, including Caldwell, Jallah Town, Police Academy, and Pipeline have carried out demonstrations against the LEC’s inability to fulfill its promises to extend power in those communities. Ashley yesterday shifted the blame on the government and some of its agencies for not doing much to settle their financial obligations.

Ashley said other agencies of government owed US$3million, totaling US$8.8 million. Lamenting further on his corporation’s inability to provide current to Liberians, Ashley said the refusal of the government to settle its obligation was posing an impediment to the smooth operations of the corporation.

“This is huge money and we do not know when we are going to collect them,” he said.

Cecil Griffiths, director of Center for Criminal Justice Research and Education, said it was time for the government to prioritize training opportunities for private security.

“We have to focus on the training and building the capacity of private security to help in combating the growing threat of terrorism in the world. We have to train them on intelligence sharing,” Griffiths said.

”We have an initial bill that was presented by LINLEA and we have submitted it to the legislature to be enacted into law, to improve the standing of private security as a component of national security,” Mitchell disclosed.

According to Mitchell, the Liberia National Police and other security actors should not be the only service provider of security for public safety and community security.

“Private security, as a component to state security, makes security services accessible to reduce the burden on the state security, in order to provide protection and uphold the rule of law,” Mitchell said.

It can be recalled that in a recent editorial, this newspaper outlined four important issues that are affecting the effective distribution of power to the people.

This newspaper named: weak and underdeveloped enabling environment, weak public utility that is not commercially viable, with high tariff and high commercial losses (power theft), Delayed expansion of transmission and distribution network to evacuate existing generation capacity (which many citizens say is responsible for power theft) and Nascent off-grid sector and finally the revelation that the Liberian government owes close to US$8.8 million.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Power theft at LEC is an INSIDE job! It was well known in West Point, where I grew up, that corrupt LEC employees took BRIBE to reconnect disconnected LEC customers. So how about FIRING and prosecuting all the bribe takers for power theft?? Look. If LEC can’t prosecute them, then let’s start the privatization of LEC, like right now!

    • How will privatization of LEC solve power theft at the same time providing power to the population. BTW, it is true that some LEC employees engage in power theft and they should be found and terminated but there are also hard core professional individuals that are involved in illegal power connection…so what should be done to those individuals?

  2. Shocking to hear from LEC that GoL still owes $8m. The Ministry of finance is on record as saying it had almost clear money owed the Utility and were down to $1m.

  3. Instead this CEO asking Liberians to create laws for power theft he should set up out reach programs at the Liberian Electricity Corporation to train his workers who will contact every delayed electrical connection to let the public know the danger, loss, and benefits sustain from every illegal or legal connection. This is a long time problem not yet to be resolved. Some laws imposed can very much cause harm or bring no change. It is only the Liberian lawmakers who know well the communities that elect them to power and only training and informing the public could solve a simple problem on issue especially a necessity, electricity need by all. Even the employees of LEC could be affected if technicians are not adequately supplied with the equipment or delay in extending electrical power to the people. Electrical power is not the same as political power. If electricity is privatized, it might work or may not, depending on the contract as Black Stone was previously. In any case CEOs like this one should bear in mind that it is only the consumers who can pay the 8.8m or see the need for electricity but must be explained thoroughly by the supplier. Most Liberians who pay most electric bills and those who do not have current may not even known the power of electricity, why certain connections are made on their properties. Do not reply me. Tell the people.
    With silent majority.

  4. This FAT guy is sitting and living better than he could ever live in Europe all because a SHADY Contract was signed on his behalf. Where is the plan to roll out the transmission and distribution to move the Mount Coffee Capacity out to ALL PARTS OF LIBERIA ??? Where is it ??

  5. No Mr. Ashley, as detested as power theft is, it cannot be elevated to “felony,” as you suggest. If we did that, then what would be the penalty for government officials who swindle us of ten times the cost of power theft annually, outright execution? Think hard about that and then suggest another remedy to power theft. These kinds of crimes in our society must be put in context. You have a bunch of unproductive government officials making in excess of 10 grand a month, and yet those same useless officials get free electricity, free water, free gas, free transportation, free medical including abroad when necessary, etc., etc. And you want to lynch poor folks for taking overcharged electricity? The penalty for power theft could be elevated above the $10 example you mentioned, but please, not to a felonious equivalent. Unless, that is, other social crimes are upgraded too, for their considered impact on society.

  6. Let’s cut to the chase. This president has been a huge disappointment so far. The man has no vision and certainly no direction for this country. The country is worse off now than under Sirleaf.

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