How Kenya Power cooked books to ‘help’ Jubilee government get re-elected

Last year the company, acting on instructions from the government suspended the collection of fuel cost charge on electricity bills.
Last year the company, acting on instructions from the government suspended the collection of fuel cost charge on electricity bills.

Electricity distributor Kenya Power cooked its books to the tune of billions of shillings in two years after it was roped into a political scheme to keep the electorate happy in the run-up to last year’s General Election.

Auditor-General Edward Ouko has, in his latest report, laid bare the full extent of the financial misrepresentation, whose aim was to keep electricity prices artificially low and help the Jubilee government get re-elected.

Kenya Power refused to restate its financial results for the years ended June 2017 and June 2018 as Mr Ouko had advised, underlining the level of impunity at the Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed firm.

Last year the company, acting on instructions from the government (which was seeking re-election in the August poll), suspended the collection of fuel cost charge on electricity bills, leading to a pile-up of uncollected cash.

UNCOLLECTED LEVY

The fuel cost charge — which is used to compensate diesel power generators — was held constant at Sh2.85 per kilowatt hour (kWh) in the seven months to August last year despite a steep increase in the amount of diesel-generated power on the national grid.

Consequently, the uncollected levy piled up to more than Sh10 billion, forcing the company to ramp up its recovery of the levy after the election, and causing a consumer uproar and litigation.

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) approved Kenya Power’s ignore-and-bill-later strategy, which the utility firm earlier told the Business Daily was a short-term policy of the government.

Delaying collection of the fuel levy, which was meant to contain public disaffection with the government over the high electricity bills in the run-up to the polls, however, left Kenya Power’s financial statements in disarray.

FUEL COSTS

To pull off the scheme, Kenya Power went against International Accounting Standards (IAS) to incorrectly report sales, receivables, liabilities and profits.

The electricity distributor irregularly recognised unbilled fuel costs as revenue, setting off a process that saw it manipulate the reporting of other items in its books in the quest to avoid disclosing lower earnings.

Mr Ouko says proper reporting would have left Kenya Power with a paltry Sh366.6 million in pre-tax profit for the year ended June 2017, and not the Sh7.6 billion it reported.

The company’s pre-tax profit for the year ended June 2018, on the other hand, should have been Sh6 billion and not the Sh3 billion it reported.

Kenya Power’s newly released financial statements for the year ended June have not been corrected to reflect the company’s true financial position, an unprecedented disregard for good corporate governance practices by a publicly traded firm.

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