TROUBLE AT LEC

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(UPDATED VERSION) MONROVIA-Wednesday, July 7, 2021, was a bad day for the
management of the Liberia Electricity Corporation(LEC) when hundreds of workers and
some customers stormed their Bushrod offices.

Basically, they  made the following demands: to replace their 30 percent salary cut which management carried out without any justiciable reasons; employ  all contractors who have been with the company for six
months or more, plus conduct an  investigation into altercation between one Jason Hunter and the late  Jacob Dukuly.

After the altercation between Dukuly and Jason, Dukuly died.  Since then, management has failed to carry out investigation. This angered the employees.

Additionally, the employees are demanding for the removal of Peter Egbodor,  Jason Hunter and Noel Walsh. These three expatriates insult employees, customers and  demean them without following company’s policies.  One of  the situations which several customers have complained about  over the  past time

“For many times, we have asked  management to send these three people back, but they have refused to do so,” one of the  protestors said.

While protesting, some customers who already have expressed their frustration over the delay of LEC providing services joined the protestors, thus increasing the numbers.

Over the past time, several persons have complained about poor services at the institution. Many have applied for connection, but have to wait for months or at times a year or more. This has led to illegal connection in many places,
thus affecting the revenue generation of the corporation.

The LEC in 2017 entered into a contract with an Ireland-based ESBI Engendering and Facility Management Limited.Basically, to manage all aspect of the energy sector LEC and carryout full responsibility for managing all aspects of it.

According to the contract, its functions include: To create an operationally efficient and profitable utility that is financially viable; to increase capabilities of local staff; to improve quality and reliability of electricity
supply and customer service and increase customer base.

For Peter, the Nigerian, Senior Manager for Metering, in addition to earlier treatment given to Liberians, accused him or carrying out ‘black deal’ at the corporation. “Due to that, he does not allow anyone to be close to him.
Most of the people who applied for meter, at times, they give him money under the table.  Once that is given, he prepares it faster and instructs technicians for installation,” one angry protestor said.

He added, that, “besides his salary which hover around d US$4,000(Four thousand United States dollars), al his benefits such as housing, vehicle, children school fees and extra per-dime are given him.

“Peter is the only one authorized to install CT meters, postpaid and pre-paid three phases. These meters he installed have doubled some customers billed while others were drastically reduced. Customers have left the grid due to high bills stating that LEC is costing more than running their generators. Others refused to give him something under the table to reduce their bills. He has changed meters from postpaid to prepaid and now 75% of those meters do not vend,” one angry protestor said.

According to the protestors, the meters are vending because they are either bypassed or faulty. When we call customers to come to the office, he calls back and says the customers do not want to come in. He will speak to them. So he’s doing meter installation, billing and collection and marketing and customer service work all by himself. The work of five  departments.

“Anyone that challenges him or Noel are insulted, demoted or re assigned elsewhere,” one  protestor only identified
himself as Siiki said.

“The position he occupies  he has too many cuts under the table. Because of that, he acts like a top manager who
prides himself as the know it all man. But he steals in a smart way.”

According to another employee who was at the protest ground,  said
Peter’s  black deal activities  put cash in his pocket on a daily basis. “Sometimes, at the end of the month, he makes over US$10,000(Ten thousand United States dollars) or more.”

But since the takeover, many of these functions have not been met according to some workers and customers this paper spoke to.

“This is a useless company. Customers will run after them to give money, but they will not come to you. I think I support the strike action by the workers here today. They should take the contract from them,” Daniel Kollie, a man who described himself as customer said.

For some of the striking workers, they are demanding for benefits and  not salary increment  For instance, they said that aliens and foreigners are taking huge sums of money while they take home little or nothing.

“We do a lot of work here and they make the money. This is unfair. We cannot be in our own country to get such treatment. This is a vibrant entity that is bringing money to the country, but only few people are benefiting,” one
employee, who declined to be named said.

Part of the agreement with ESBI  is to operate and maintain LEC’s generation, transmission and distribution systems throughout Liberia; build capacity of LEC staff to sustain and improve the performance of LEC beyond the
duration of the contract.

The LEC has been under series of managerial structure. For instance, in 2017, an Interim Management Team that comprised of Liberians took over the management of it after the expiration contract of Manitoba Hydro International
(MHI). MHI managed the electricity corporation for six years.

But MHI was said to have failed to build capacity and knowledge transfer to Liberians; a situation which affected  LEC.

When the entity was contacted for comment, a senior official said: “I have not been authorized to speak to the press at all. So, I am very sorry that I cannot speak to you. When I am authorized to speak, I will do so.”

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