Escom says new applicants for electricity will be put on prepaid billing meter system as one way of improving revenue collection.
Currently, according to the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) acting public relations manager Kitty Chingota, 50 000 customers are on pre-paid billing meter system.
On the overall, the company has about 180 000 active customers on its grid.
The need to install pre-paid meters is against the background of complaints from the sole power supplier that government departments are among the major defaulters of electricity bills which accumulate to billions of kwacha.
Escom has also for a long time faced revenue collection challenges particularly in government departments and parastatals.
Chingota explained that there was a slight delay in installing prepaid meters because of hiccups encountered in the companyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s system which could only allow a certain number of meters to be installed.
“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a policy from Escom now that all new applicants should be on pre-paid billing system. We have a backlog of 17 000 customers. So far, we have ordered 35 000 prepaid meters, 10 000 from China and 25 000 from South Africa.
“This now means that we can connect all the customers that have been on the waiting list,” she explained last week when the company took journalists to appreciate rehabilitation works at Nkula B power station.
Chingota said in future, the company will start replacing postpaid meters with pre-paid meters.
In November 2009, the Office of the President and Cabinet, under whose management Escom falls, asked the company to speed up the installation of pre-paid billing meters in all government departments to maximizing on revenue collection.
“One of the challenges facing Escom has been revenue collection. In my discussion with management, I told them to ensure that they install prepaid meters on all premises, particularly those that consume more power including the OPC [Office of the President and Cabinet].
“This will ensure that if we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t pay, we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have power and they [Escom] will be collecting money for the power consumed,” said Bright Msaka, chief secretary to the President and Cabinet when he visited Nkula power stations then.
Energy analysts argue that when customers are connected on prepaid billing system, the company does not have to spend time disconnecting and reconnecting customer and, in the process, saving needless expenditure.
Last month, Escom launched Magetsi Card, a prepaid unit card, which will support the companyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s prepayment system expansion plan, according to its chief executive officer Arthur Mandambwe.
He said the introduction of the Magetsi Card prepaid unit will allow Escom to install prepayment meters anywhere in the country.
The magetsi card comes in K500 ($2), K1 000 ($5) and K10 ($9)00 denominations but plans are underway to introduce the K200 and K100 denominations to cater for the low income earners.
“The cards will make electricity more affordable to the low income households by not charging the customers a monthly fixed charge of K525 per month, which is applicable to postpaid billing system,” said Mandambwe.