Members of Parliament (MPs) under the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change have highlighted shortfalls in the fuel industry and asked Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) to discipline errant oil marketing companies.
Speaking during a Sensitisation Workshop on Liquid Fuels and Gas Regulations in Mangochi on Saturday, the legislators also decried the trend where more filling stations are being built in or near residential areas and social amenities such as hospitals and schools, warning that this is a recipe for disaster.
Committee chairperson Welani Chilenga told the meeting that some Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) own filling stations and at the same time, run them contrary to the Liquid Fuels and Gas Industry Regulations which require the OMCs to run only two filling stations and franchise the rest in their network to Malawians.
He said: “We know of some fuel company which has numerous filling stations, but are all run by itself and not Malawians as required by the law and you [Mera] can visit each and every filling station to verify this. The law does not stop them [from having] all the filing stations, but rather prohibits them [from running] all of them.”
Chilenga also talked tough about what he described as unfairness in the way fuel is transported into the country, alleging that transportation of fuel belonging to the State-owned National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) is currently dominated by foreign hauliers.
On his part, Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture chairperson Sameer Suleman, himself a haulier, said that much as fuel transport business is supposed to be regulated by Mera, the authority is currently powerless.
In his contribution, Ntchisi South legislator UlemuChilapondwa, who is also vice-chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, said it was disheartening to see some filling stations built and operating without canopies.
Reacting to some of the concerns, Mera chief executive officer Collins Magalasi acknowledged some of the fears expressed by the legislators, but was quick to mention that most owners of filling stations constructed in “wrong places” took advantage of weaknesses in the previous law.
“For filling stations that were located in wrong places, those ones were built before new regulations came and that was before 15th September 2017.
“We have sent them what we call improvement notices. We are demanding slightly higher standards to catch up with the new standards that we have,” he said.
On observations that some OMCs are running filling stations contrary to the law, Magalasi said the regulator would investigate the matter.
“In the event that we find any, it means they have gone against the law and we will revoke their licenses,” he said.
Mera was established under the Energy Regulatory Act of 2004 to regulate the energy sector for sustainable development in accordance with the international best practice and regulate the sector in a fair, transparent, efficient and cost-effective manner.