Newly-appointed Minister of Energy Newton Kambala yesterday sternly warned Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) officials against engaging in corrupt practices, saying “time is up” and that anyone involved “will go away”.
Kambala, who visited Mera head offices in Lilongwe, also demanded the regulatory body to immediately submit a report to his office explaining how the Malawi Rural Electrification Programme (Marep) levy is functioning and on how the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has delayed the construction of a Mera office complex in the capital city as alluded to by chief executive officer Collins Magalasi in his earlier presentation.
Said the minister: “The current administration wants efficiency and anybody without efficiency will have to go away. Now we have also seen wastage of resources through corruption. Government will not spare anybody involved in corruption here at Mera or any other public institution.”
Kambala, who was accompanied by his Principal Secretary Joseph Mwandidya and director of energy Hastings Chipongwe, said he is aware of social media reports “and propaganda” implicating Mera in several dirty practices, but warned that government will act on reports that have evidence.
He added: “We need every penny to reduce poverty in Malawi. This is a $6 billion worth economy shared among 18 million plus people. And per-capita income indicates we are all below the poverty line. Hence, the need to grow this economy.”
Asked how he intends to fix the recurring problem of electricity blackouts, Kambala said President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice-President SaulosChilima have given him ministerial powers to make decisions that will help end power outages, adding that he will first have to appreciate the situation on the ground before making public pronouncements.
“If this problem [of blackouts] persists in the next two years, surely it will be my problem,” he challenged.
The minister told Mera to scale up its consumer awareness and education to sensitise the public about all levies the regulatory body collects from the fuel price build up.
Apart from the Marep levy, the country’s fuel price build-up also has energy regulatory levy, road levy, Malawi Bureau of Standards levy, storage levy, distribution fund levy and price stabilisation fund levy.
Reacting to the minister’s statement, Magalasi said Mera has over the years continued to invest in public trust since the entity uses public resources.
He described the authority as an open parastatal which has also a whistle-blowing facility open to all staff and the public.
“What the minister has said is actually within our strategic plan. We are also pleased that the minister talked about the need for efficiency and I can assure you that Mera is efficient and we will become more efficient going forward,” said Magalasi.
Mera’s mandate is drawn from four energy laws, namely Energy Regulation Act, Rural Electrification Act, Electricity Act and Liquid Fuels and Gas (production and supply) Act. All the four Acts were enacted in 2004.
Apart from the Acts of Parliament, Mera also applies four regulations in the energy sector, namely the energy regulation By-law of 2009, the Rural Electrification Regulations of 2009, Liquid Fuels and Gas (production and supply) Regulations of 2009 as well as electricity by-laws of 2012.