MPs on Tuesday asked Malawi Government to explain the renewed electricity inter-connection project with Mozambique following news that the two countries are scheduled to sign an agreement soon.
During the late president Bingu wa Mutharikaâ€™s era, the power inter-connection deal was initially rejected by Malawi reportedly due to cost implications, but the new Joyce Banda administration made a U-turn on the project, arguing the link would assist to solve the countryâ€™s power supply problems.
In a supplementary question to Minister of Energy and Mining Dr Cassim Chilumpha, Nsanje Central MP Francis Kasaila said it was surprising government over the weekend announced its readiness to sign the agreement, yet the House was not informed about the matter.
Said Kasaila: â€œIt would be unfair for government to sign the agreement without the knowledge of the House. This was also the case with the ERP [the Economic Recovery Plan] which was launched without involving Parliament.â€
The Nsanje Central MP was supported by Chitipa North MP Nick Masebo and Lilongwe Mpenu MP Wilson Makala-Ngozo.
â€œWhat Nsanje Central raised is not a new phenomenon. This issue was raised, but rejected because of the cost implications,â€ said Masebo, quashing Chilumphaâ€™s submission that, legally, government is not obliged to bring issues of such agreements into the House.
But Makala-Ngozo said the nation, through Parliament, is supposed to be informed as to how much Malawi will be paying to tap electricity from Mozambique.
Chilumpha said information about the inter-connection deal will be made available to the House after he is given guidance by Speaker Henry Chimunthu Banda.
The Speaker said there is a constitutional provision that would guide MPs on whether such issues of agreements and plans such as the ERP are supposed to be brought into the House before being agreed or launched.
Despite being initiated some years ago, the agreement virtually collapsed after Mutharika refused to sign it, arguing the initial costs outweighed the benefits as it would require Malawi to pay $480 000 (almost K156 million) a month to tap the electricity from Mozambique.
Lilongwe Msozi South MP Vitus Dzoole-Mwale also asked Chilumpha on what government was doing regarding high electricity tariffs which he said are contributing to environmental degradation and deforestation since people are going for alternative energy sources such as charcoal.
Chilumpha told the House that the inter-connection agreement with Mozambique is one of the measures government is undertaking to ensure that more Malawians have access to electricity and the tariffs remain affordable.
The minister said measures to make electricity accessible and affordable include the resuscitation of the K115.5 billion (about $350 million) Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact agreement. The US governmentâ€™s MCC compact was also cancelled during the Mutharika rule due to concerns over governance and economic mismanagement issues.
Currently, about 10 percent of the countryâ€™s 14 million people have no access to electricity.