Theft of electricity through illegal connections, tampering with meters, transmission and distribution lines, and theft of assets including poles, wires and transformers, remain the most singular challenge to the viability and sustenance of LEC as a Public Utility Company.
The challenge involves individuals tampering with and making illegal connections in their communities to the LEC power lines. It also involves organized syndicates with elaborate structures posing as LEC operatives and involving some former and current employees of the corporation.
As a consequence, LEC is experiencing high commercial loss and low revenue generation, which has translated into high electricity tariffs, currently amongst the highest in the world. The ability of LEC to engage in capital investment is also frustrated, and the corporation is constrained to rely on the support of international donor partners for needed capital investment, which is not sustainable.
Higher tariffs also lead to high production costs which invariably disincentive private sector investment and undermines economic and social development in Liberia.
To address these challenges, the Government of Liberia has enacted a Power Theft Act which came into effect on the 4th of October, 2019.
The Power Theft Act characterizes power theft as a national security threat, and establishes a system of prohibitions and penalties in relation to illegal connections; tampering with meters, transmission and distribution Lines; and theft of LEC assets including meters, light poles, wires and transformers.
The Act makes all forms of power theft a Second-Degree Felony punishable by jail terms ranging from two (2) years to seven (7) years and fines ranging from four hundred (US$400.00) to one thousand (US$1000.00) United States Dollars for individuals found guilty.
For industrial and commercial entities and syndicates, the Act provides for a fine of Ten Thousand United States Dollars (US$10,000.00) or double the gain from the commission of the crime coupled with seizure and forfeiture of assets associated with the offense including vehicles, properties and bank accounts.
Placing the Power Theft Act on the LEC Web page serves as due and timely notice to all to govern themselves act accordingly. It is hoped that through effective implementation of the Act, there will be a drastic reduction in power theft in Liberia, thus paving the way for reductions in electricity tariff, and for economic and social development in Liberia.
See the full text of the Act here.