RPT-Ivory Coast to crack down on fraud in power sector

Wed Apr 17, 2013 10:53am EDT

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* Illegal connections, meter tampering rampant

* New power code to clamp down on abuses

* Ivory Coast to add 230 MW to output by year's end

By Loucoumane Coulibaly

ABIDJAN, April 17 (Reuters) - Ivory Coast plans to clamp down on rampant fraud, which is costing its power utility CIE around 45 billion CFA francs ($90.07 million) in lost revenues each year, a senior government official said.

Ivorian authorities are pushing for heavy investments to boost power output and meet growing demand in the West African nation, where economic growth is rebounding after lagging the rest of Africa for a decade.

Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa grower, has an enviably reliable power supply by regional standards and already exports electricity to its neighbours.

However, Sabati Cisse, energy director for the country's ministry of mines and energy, said illegal connections and meter tampering were widespread.

"Fraud is causing us to lose around 45 billion CFA francs annually. We're working to fight this fraud through the new electricity code which is going to come out," he told Reuters late on Tuesday.

In accordance with aid donor requirements, Ivory Coast is updating legislation relating to its mining, agriculture and power sectors.

The new power code is due to take effect this year.

"From now on there will be sanctions and criminal charges levied against cheaters, and verification brigades on the ground," Cisse said.

CIE - which is partly owned by French industrial group Bouygues - posted a net profit of 8.39 billion CFA francs for 2012, up 32 percent from the precious year, on turnover of 324.60 billion CFA francs.

As part of efforts to spur its recovery from a brief civil war in 2011, Ivory Coast is aiming to increase power production by around 80 percent over the next six years.

Cisse said several projects due to come online in 2013 would add around 230 megawatts to current production capacity of 1,420 megawatts.

London-listed short-term power supplier Aggreko will boost output by 100 megawatts by early May and electricity producer CIPREL, a Bouygues subsidiary, will have a new 110 megawatt gas turbine completed by the end of the year.

Repairs to a turbine at the state-owned Vridi thermal plant will add another 20 megawatts in May.

"All of this is being done to keep up with economic growth," Cisse said.

Six months of violence in the wake of presidential elections in late 2010 led to a 4.7 percent contraction in GDP in 2011, but Ivory Coast recorded growth of 9.8 percent last year. The government forecasts double-digit growth by 2014. ($1 = 499.5860 CFA francs) (Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly, writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Susan Fenton)