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Combating power theft in Sabah
Published on: Thursday, February 22, 2024
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Combating power theft in Sabah
The Pan Borneo safety contractor and his team spotted a location along the overhead lines where power theft occurred.
Kota Kinabalu: The people in this State regard the cooperation between Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) and the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) in combating electricity theft or “meter tampering” as a necessary step towards implementing decisive actions to curb such activities.

Benjamin Cleyk, 26, an electrician at a hotel here, said the issue of electricity theft has been ongoing for a long time in Sabah not because of a lack of enforcement but due to insufficient follow-up actions after illegal electricity connections are cut off by SESB. 

“They (electricity thieves) will reconnect after SESB cuts off the illegal connection. It’s a cycle – SESB cuts in the morning, and they reconnect in the evening. 

“We understand that SESB, as an electricity provider, finds it challenging to apprehend these thieves, so this strong cooperation with the PDRM is precisely what’s needed,” he said.

“With this cooperation, we hope that after SESB disconnects the illegal connections, the police and other authorities will immediately take action against the perpetrators based on the law. Issue fines or arrest them so that it doesn’t recur,” he said.

Hailing from Penampang, Benjamin suggested that for a start, strict enforcement could be carried out in several hot spots identified to be involved in electricity theft in Kota Kinabalu before expanding efforts to other areas, especially urban areas.

On Feb 14, SESB Chairman Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau was reported as saying that the company is estimated to incur losses of approximately RM200 million per year due to electricity theft, hence the strengthened cooperation with PDRM to address the issue.

Tour guide Taty Ilyana Md Ali, 31, said the cooperation between SESB and PDRM could be further extended to involve various agencies in conducting integrated operations, especially in squatter areas in the State.

Elaborating further, she said “meter tampering” is a term commonly used in the State, referring to the action of squatter homeowners, mostly illegal immigrants, making illegal connections to the electricity supply cables.

“It’s easy to spot these meter tampering activities, just look at the electricity poles and wires and you will notice there are many illegal connections to squatter houses.

So these are the hot spots that need to be tackled. In addition to SESB and PDRM, bring in the Immigration Department, local authorities and other agencies to jointly combat the issue,” said Taty, who lives in Likas.

“It’s embarrassing when tourists see such situations and ask me about it; I have to explain that it’s just a temporary cut-off and then reconnection. So, conduct a large-scale integrated operation, take action against electricity theft and also against illegal immigrants,” she added.

Primary school teacher Mohd Ikram Baharuddin, 26, said efforts to combat electricity theft should not solely rely on SESB and PDRM; instead, the community and residents’ associations need to play a role in ensuring that such activities do not occur in their areas.

“The community or village heads should make a police report if advice is ignored. Electricity theft causes millions of ringgit in losses that could be used to improve the electricity supply system. The system also becomes overloaded to accommodate illegal users who should not receive the supply,” said Mohd Ikram from Telipok, Tuaran.

Meanwhile, Madius, when contacted, said he greatly appreciates the feedback and support given by residents in efforts to combat electricity theft.

He said they understand that many people are unclear about the issue, leading to questions about why SESB does not apprehend or prosecute the perpetrators in court.

However, he said, SESB does not have the legal authority to apprehend these individuals.

“SESB is a corporate entity involved in electricity supply. SESB is a victim of theft at our level and action is taken by reporting to the authorities.

“To put it in analogy, if a thief breaks into a house and steals items, the homeowner reports it to the police, and the investigation and apprehension of the thief are the responsibility of the police,” he said.

He said SESB faces a loss of 17 per cent of electricity annually, with 10 per cent due to technical factors or technical losses, while 7 per cent is lost due to non-technical factors or non-technical losses caused by electricity theft.

“One per cent is equivalent to RM30 million in ringgit value, so if it’s 7 per cent, we face a loss of RM210 million annually,” he said.

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