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To bill or not to bill in dollars? ‘Business Daily’ caused public confusion

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By Lucy Mwangi

In journalism, where the pen wields immense power, accuracy and integrity are sacred virtues. A recent twist of events surrounding the Business Daily’s coverage of Kenya Power and Lighting Company’s alleged approval to bill consumers in US dollars may have left the public puzzled and questioning the reliability of media reports.

The enigma begins with a headline that looms large on the front page of the print copy, still circulating in the public domain: “Kenya Power gets nod to bill consumers in US dollars.” Yet, as the ink dries, the digital space tells a different tale: “Kenya Power seeks nod to bill consumers in US dollars.” What prompted this intriguing shift in narrative, and where does the truth lie?

On February 26, 2024, the Business Daily splashed a bold headline across its print edition, proclaiming that Kenya Power had secured the green light to invoice consumers in US dollars. This audacious assertion triggered a ripple effect, prompting an investigation into the matter. Initial contact with KPLC, however, threw a spanner into the works. KPLC vehemently denied any intention or approval to bill consumers in foreign currency, refuting the claims on the Business Daily’s print edition.

In the spirit of transparency, clarification was sought from the journalist responsible for the contentious piece. The revelation was startling. The journalist admitted to relying solely on a press conference held by KPLC on February 23, during which a recording captured an official stating they had obtained a nod from the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority. However, when pressed on whether he verified this information with EPRA before publishing, the journalist confessed to an oversight, leaving a gaping hole in the credibility of the original report.

In the wake of KPLC’s denial resonating loudly, attention turned to EPRA for clarification. The regulatory authority’s response added complexity to the narrative. While EPRA acknowledged a proposal submitted by KPLC in August 2023, suggesting the collection of electricity bills in USD, they categorically stated that no approval had been granted. The contradiction between the recorded statement at the press conference and EPRA’s official stance cast doubt on the veracity of the information disseminated by the journalist.

EPRA shed light on KPLC’s proposed billing system, a pivotal detail that seemed to have been overlooked in the initial report. Contrary to the sensational headline, KPLC’s aim was not to bill consumers in foreign currency but to collect payments in USD from those with income denominated in dollars. The intricacies of the conversion rate were to be negotiated between the utility company and its customers, offering a potential solution to mitigate KPLC’s foreign currency demand. EPRA emphasised that this should not be misconstrued as introduction of a parallel forex market, as such activities are strictly regulated by the Central Bank of Kenya.

An inquiry into EPRA’s approach to handling misinformation revealed the organisation’s commitment to accurate reporting. EPRA highlighted collaborative efforts with media houses to promptly rectify inaccuracies.  The dance between facts and fiction, however, continues, leaving the public in a state of uncertainty.

As the saga surrounding the conflicting headlines unfurls, the public is left questioning the reliability of media reports in the complex landscape of regulatory affairs. The lingering question, “to bill or not to bill in dollars?” echoes through the corridors of uncertainty, underscoring the need for responsible journalism in an era where information can shape opinions and sway decisions. The resolution to this puzzling odyssey awaits, and as EPRA navigates the consultative process, the public is poised for a revelation that may redefine the contours of truth in media reporting.

Lucy Mwangi is Research Officer at MCK

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