Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito has branded Electricity Supply Commission of Malawi (Escom) the most corrupt, nonperforming and State captured institution.
The consumer rights watchdog has since urged Escom to improve if it is to effect the tariff hike it is seeking to implement over the next four years.
Kapito made the accusation on Friday at Sunbird Mzuzu when Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) held a public hearing on Escom’s base tariff application.
He said in the past four years, Escom has been involved in several scandals, including K18 billion procurement of materials that it does not need, fuel theft and illegal power connections which he said are signs of inefficiency.
Said Kapito: “Awarding a tariff hike would be a slap on Malawians’ faces. If Escom was a performer and supplied electricity 24 hours a day, Malawians would even pay for a 400 percent hike.”
He urged Escom to improve in the three areas to justify its new base tariff application.
In reaction, Escom chief executive officer Allexon Chiwaya said after noting inefficiencies in power supply, the corporation instituted investigations which established that there was fuel theft, adding the investigations led to arrests of suspects and improvement in the running of generators.
He also said Escom has learnt a lesson on the K18 billion procurement mess. He said the company is discussing with some suppliers to take back the supplied materials at a lower cost while some of it is being offered to power utilities in neighbouring countries for sale.
Said Chiwaya: “Some of the materials will have to be improvised to suit the current technology. Those are some of the initiatives we are trying to make out of the mess that was there. We have learnt a lesson and now we are strict on how we procure.”
Mera chief executive officer Collins Magalasi said the regulator will not allow any inefficiency to be passed on to consumers.
But he said people need to understand that machines Escom is using are old and need maintenance if Escom is to sustain its services.
Said Magalasi: “Mera understands interests of consumers but also appreciates the interest of producers and when its board sits down it will have to consider such issues.”
During the Mzuzu meeting, participants challenged Escom to improve on service delivery if Malawians are to support the electricity base tariff increase.
One of the participants Professor Marambika Shawa said Escom should first give out a detailed and clear outline on how it would ensure that Malawians will not get a raw deal.
Mzuzu-based electrical power and renewable energy expert Collins Zalengera urged Escom to improve on efficiency for Malawians to trust the corporation and also to enable more investors come into the country.
Escom recently confirmed losing 3.8 million litres of diesel valued at K1.9 billion to theft between January and June this year in a syndicate involving transporters, security guards and some of its staff.
The diesel, according to Escom public relations manager Innocent Chitosi, was meant for the running of the generators being managed by Aggreko to complement hydro-electric power in the country.
Escom’s admission followed revelations by Vice-President Saulos Chilima that 3 million litres of fuel had been stolen at the parastatal.
Chitosi said Escom has since queried Aggreko to explain the missing fuel and that the corporation has set up measures to seal all loopholes.
Mera held public hearings last week in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu on Escom’s application to review the electricity base tariff to be implemented from 2018 to 2022.