Opposition members of Parliament (MPs) have described the procurement of generators to ease power shortages in the country as an avenue for some unscrupulous individuals to cash in on the prevailing crisis.
Putting across a question of national importance, Kasungu Central MP Amon Nkhata (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) drew the attention of the House to contents of an unsigned letter from purported employees of Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) which is circulating on social media.
He wondered why, after Electricity Generation Company (Egenco) invited bids for the supply of diesel generators, there was no feedback on the successful suppliers or notice to those who had failed.
On the Escom generator deal, Nkhata alleged that Escom had entered into an agreement with a company to pay a commissioning fee as well as buy fuel for the generators when that should have been the responsibility of the company.
But Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya stopped the MP from mentioning names of individuals suspected of involvement, citing Standing Orders which forbid mentioning people who cannot defend themselves in the House.
Nkhata then asked the minister responsible to explain, saying: “Mindful that the board rejected the agreement, but certain powers that be pushed it through, there are some selfish individuals who would like to cash in on these blackouts.
“Can the minister responsible come clear on the truth and position of government regarding these generators? Is it leasing, hiring or procuring because these mean different things,” he said.
However, Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe, under the guise of contributing to debate on the question, informed the House that Egenco and Escom were both tasked with finding means to resolve the challenge of power cuts.
The minister said Egenco was looking to buy generators to supply 50 megawatts (MW) into the national grid while Escom would come in with 78 megawatts to deal with the crisis.
Egenco has 15 generators with a 1.5MW capacity but only 10 are functional while an expert was on the ground fixing the rest.
“Over and above what Egenco is doing, Escom will be hiring and this will be expected to be completed between December and end January. We believe we will substantially mitigate the situation,” said Gondwe.
However, he said government had been advised that fuel supply would be a challenge and that the matter would be looked at “from a technical and financial point of view”.
Dedza East MP Juliana Lunguzi (MCP) said the power shortages could not be described as a crisis when in 2015 government had noted the need to increase power generation and promised capacity would go up by 127 percent by 2016.
She said: “When there is a crisis, we tend to use hasty procurement measures. One wonders, did we not create this crisis to cash in on the deal?”
However, Gondwe was not ready with responses on the cost to the consumers when Lunguzi and other MPs requested for information.
Neither did he respond to allegations of fraud by some unnamed individuals in government. n