(Business in Cameroon) - Last April 13, Electricity Sector Regulatory Agency (ARSEL) issued a warning to electric utility ENEO for its "numerous shortcomings."
"During the joint visit carried out by ARSEL and ENEO to check the electric installation of some of your company’s clients who contacted the ARSEL to dispute the adjustment invoices sent to them, numerous shortcomings and abuses were identified," wrote Jean Pascal Nkou, Director-General of ARSEL, to Éric Mansuy, ENEO’s CEO.
In the letter, ENEO is accused of not complying with the public electricity distribution service law, which defines the actions that can be considered as fraudulent acts. The electric utility is also suspected of entrusting the implementation of non-technical losses mitigation operations to unauthorized personnel and not involving bailiffs, technical experts, judicial police officers, or even its sworn agents. Also, ARSEL found out that ENEO does not use master meters as required by Article 13 paragraph 3 of the above-mentioned law, which lists the equipment and methods to be used when a client is suspected of using electricity illegally or the metering device is believed to be defective.
Also, the regulator indicates that ENEO suspended electricity supply to the clients suspected of indulging in fraudulent acts even though the matter has been referred to the ARSEL Conciliation Board. For ARSEL, this suspension violates Article 9.2.4 regulating public electricity distribution in Cameroon.
Indeed, the aforementioned article states that once the disputed case is referred to ARSEL, ENEO will not suspend electricity supply till the conciliation procedure is completed.
"We also noticed that some of your clients who are supplied by metering instrument lawfully installed outside their compounds or offices are accused of indulging in fraudulent acts and fined. This violates Article 13 of the above-mentioned law that states that it can be considered a fraudulent act any action aimed at fraudulently using electricity, skewing the computing of electricity metering equipment, or even tampering with the seals," Jean Pascal Nkou wrote.
He reminds that the above-mentioned installations were removed from the list of wrongdoings and fraudulent acts during the discussions held in Douala from September 20 to 26, 2020, to regulate the non-technical losses mitigation operations. He added that after those meetings, several notices were sent to ENEO to cancel the fines imposed on the concerned clients but to no avail.
Non-compliance with commitments
Jean Pascal Nkou accuses ENEO’s CEO of not complying with the commitments he took during the videoconference consultation held on February 24, 2021, to discuss non-technical losses. During the videoconference, ENEO’s CEO promised to send three briefing notes to his staff to regulate the non-technical losses mitigation operations.
The first briefing was to decree the cancelation of fines once an ARSEL/ENEO check finds out that the clients committed no fraud. The second briefing note was to inform the staff that parallel circuits are normalized, therefore, the fines imposed on clients with such circuits should be voided.
The third note was to remind ENEO staff that clients should not be disconnected once they refer the dispute to ARSEL or ENEO unless the electric installations pointed out present an obvious threat to residents and their properties.
"Pursuant to the provisions of Article 97 of Law No. 2011/022 of December 14, 2011, regulating the electricity sector, you are ordered to address the shortcomings and abuse pointed out and send me copies of the briefing notes issued in that regard, without prejudice to financial and administrative sanctions that may go as far as suspending the non-technical losses mitigation operations," Jean Pascal Nkou concludes.
ENEO is yet to answer those accusations but in February 2021, Éric Mansuy declared that 200 fraud kingpins suspected of fraudulently operating electricity networks were arrested in 2020. Eighty (80) ENEO staff were also fired for facilitating those acts.
At the time, Éric Mansuy explained that each of the arrested kingpins was suspected of operating a network that illegally supplies electricity to about a hundred households, meaning all the 200 fraud kingpins were illegally supplying electrify to about 20,000 households.
By arresting those fraud kingpins, ENEO believes that it mitigated significant non-technical losses on its distribution network currently constituted of 11 452 kilometers of 5.5 to 30 kilovolts lines and 11,158 kilometers of 220 to 380 kilovolts lines. Indeed, as ENEO reveals, frauds on the Cameroonian electricity network affect the financial stability in the sector. Officially, the electricity sector loses about XAF60 billion yearly to various frauds.