Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) has the last laugh through the recovery of K305 million from 1 528 customers the sole power supplier caught bypassing or tampering its billing system to get free electricity or lower bills.
Escom caught the errant and apparently over-creative clients during a six-month nationwide exercise it undertook from February this year to physically locate and verify its customers on its data base with those existing on the ground.
The exercise was also aimed at reviewing safety issues, including the quality of electrical equipment in use, checking whether there were any illegal or unsafe power connections or if customers tampered with the meters or extended powerlines behind Escom’s back.
“During the exercise, about 1 528 customers were [between February and July this year] found to have either bypassed the meters or tampered with them, with the aim of getting free power or reduced bills,” Escom public relations manager Kitty Chingota said in a recent interview.
“Escom is losing a lot of revenue through such malpractices. For instance, between February and July, 2015, Escom visited 50 percent of its customer base and realised that about K305 000 000 was lost through illegal connections.”
She said most of the acts occurred in the cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Zomba. Thyolo and Mchinji districts also registered a high number of such cases, she added.
Commenting on the developments, Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito said it is unfortunate that such a big number of people were caught in the illegal acts by Escom.
But he said while Escom may have caught the culprits over what had been committed, the organisation should balance that with the serious omissions it makes in its work.
Said Kapito: “Escom has been poor in processing connections when a consumer has applied to be connected.”
Earlier last year, a syndicate parading as ‘Escom II’ was also uncovered after making illegal connections to people from the Escom grid. The malpractice was common in Lilongwe where frustrated prospective customers opted for the short cut after waiting forever on Escom’s connections waiting list.