01 02 03 Africa Expat Wives Club: The Kenya Power and Lighting Company 'Kabila' 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

The Kenya Power and Lighting Company 'Kabila'


I used to quite like KPLC. Well ‘like’ might be a little strong but the fact that there is a telephone number you can call when problems arise with your electricity at all hours of the day or night is a good thing.  KPLC give you a reference number and then, by some slim chance, they sometimes tell you why your power is down (for days sometimes). I have always found this reassuring. Okay, so sometimes the lady at the other end puts the phone down on you and that’s when you’ve just managed to get through after the fifty-third attempt, then you get angry...but you know what I mean. The overriding benefit of an emergency number means that there’s a possibility you will get helpful information to ease personal frustration when there's no power or low voltage (ie all your electrical appliances/water heaters are getting burnt out); You might be told; ‘our technicians are working on the line,’ ‘the transformer has been vandalised’ ‘routine maintenance work being carried out’ ‘your power should be restored by this evening’.

Occasionally gangs of electricians turn up in emergency situations and actually fix the problem in a timely fashion.  Heck, I made tea for them when our neighbours felled a tree onto our power lines.

Anyway, this amicable relationship has been tarnished for me permanently since we attempted to take our relationship with KPLC to 'the next level'.  Rather ambitiously, we wanted our power lines re-routed and this time, underground. This was not decided simply on a whim; the fact is that our electricity cables currently run almost over our new swimming pool. Visions of the overhead cable snapping while innocent swimmers get zapped in a pool of death beneath, was my latest recurring nightmare (the nightmare that followed on from the previous 'rotten tree falls on house' nightmare that I used to have - see previous tree cutting post).

The problem is, since starting our 'new' relationship with KPLC, I feel I have been taken for a fool, ‘played’, given the run around. let's be honest - ripped off.

First we needed a quotation to move the power lines. A lone man visited three or four times (usually at odd times at the weekend) and with a wink kept asking, ‘would you like your quotation hand written or typed?’ Guessing that he was hinting at some sort of unofficial/under the table job following the unwritten quotation route and endless repercussions thereafter when things inevitably go wrong, we obviously said ‘typed’ please.  (Obviously we would never entertain the idea of following the corruption route - shudder the thought.  Though it turns out, what mugs we were trying to play it straight!)

Getting the ‘typed’ quotation took around six to eight weeks. When it came the estimated bill for re-routing and submerging our cables almost touched 100,000/- (85,000 plus labour and VAT). Naively we assumed that for this vast price, KPLC would be providing superior armoured cable, possibly upgrading us to 3 phase electricity (from single phase) – so we paid, like fools.

More months ensued. Nothing. I stopped worrying about electricity cables falling into the pool, I almost got used to them as an unsightly backdrop to our new pool area. Life is short.  Then, over Easter weekend, a gang arrived at our house to finally do the re-routing job. They called my husband's mobile, we said we were away (in Meru) so please could they come back when we were home. Next a gang of ten men arrive at the house on the following May bank holiday. They wanted to erect a new pole apparently. There were more discussions over the best route for the new cable. The first plan was for it to traverse the garden but again, I had visions of a gardener some time in the future digging down too deep and hitting a live wire (I know, I know, the cable should be armoured and we would put 'hatari' tiles, but still - it worried me).

Am I boring you yet? Sorry.

So the ten men put in a new pole – this job took about ten minutes. Having wondered why we needed so many to do this simple job, I later found out that ten men turning up on a bank holiday means that they can all put in for overtime. The head KPLC man told us to be ready on Tuesday morning ‘early’ to do the re-routing – or else!  He's a slippery one.

I asked our friendly electrician Jeff (I call Jeff 'Run DMC', when he came over he was wearing a fab Just Cavalli white jacket and matching baseball cap) to come and fix up the conduit for the new cable. As it turned out, this was an enlightening visit. When I complained about how much KPLC had charged us for this relatively simple exercise, Jeff told me a few home truths;

‘In the first place, you should have ‘spoken’ to the KPLC man who does the quoting when he did his initial site visit – if you had given him ‘something’ (not much, even just 500 shillings) he would have provided a far more reasonable quote. This is the way the system works.’

Oh great.

‘But, to make you feel better, that price you paid could be justified, as long as they bring you the proper armoured, underground cable which is expensive. But be warned, their latest trick is to put cheap overhead cables underground.’

Double great.
SO – a week later, last Sunday, at around 1pm the KPLC ‘gang’ arrive unannounced again – this time with cable – cheap, overhead cable. After some frantic phone calls to Jeff and a fairly hostile stand-off, we turn them away without doing the job. The slippery KPLC chap swears blind that this is the right (single core) cable – and it’s the only one they have anyway so it's put up or shut up as far as we are concerned.  Monday morning, we visit KPLC’s Dagoretti branch – they say the same thing – it’s that cable or nothing.

Jeff says, ‘they are crooks – this is what KPLC do to people, they are thieves and cheats’ – he was sweetly getting hot under the collar on our behalf. Our gardener says that KPLC is a very big ‘kabila’ or tribe.

So, after setting out on this exercise 6 months ago, we are 100,000/- worse off and have achieved precisely nothing – except we now have a redundant telegraph pole in our garden. Jeff the electrician suggests we try to get a‘re-quote’ from someone else in KPLC rather than accept a rubbish cable will probably go wrong and be more difficult to fix when it is installed underground. At least – if we have to accept the rubbish cable, we might end up with a re-fund that can be offset against our bills. We need to investigate if this is a possibility.

I’m exhausted.... (as I am sure you are too after reading this...)

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