Consumer body condemns ESCOM for seeking sympathy from JB

Malawi Consumer Guard (MCG), a new consumer rights body, has denounced the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) board and management for seeking political support without regard to providing quality services to Malawians.

MCG was reacting to news that ESCOM is increasing its electricity tariffs by 40 percent at a time its services still leave a lot to be desired.

“We are surprised as Malawi consumer rights defending organization to learn that the ESCOM, in its quest of trying to break-even and profiteer for sole purposes of pleasing the US Government and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, has decided to increase electricity tariffs by 40 percent in all categories,” MCG Executive Director, Pastor Rumbani Mkandawire, told Nyasa Times.

ESCOM announced it will increase the tariffs from K22.50 per KWh to K31.50 per KWh for domestic, pre-paid and post-paid single phase supply category.

Mkandawire: Improve

Mkandawire:  Escom seeking political support

But MCG says it is shocked with the development and urged ESCOM Board and Management to stop looking for political patronage and sympathy from the President Joyce Banda and her ruling elites through dubious donations to them under the guise of corporate social responsibility.

“How can they be busy making donations worth millions of kwachas when they are failing to satisfy customers’ needs?” questioned Mkandawire.

MCG noted that by increasing the tariffs, ESCOM alongside the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) were repeatedly neglecting section 17 subsection 1 of Electricity Act (2004).

The section stipulates that “before revising the base tariff and the tariff adjustment formula revision in accordance with section 16 (5), MERA shall publish the proposed tariff revision and may cause tariff studies to be carried out.”

“MERA and ESCOM have been and are not providing room for objection to the tariff revision as stipulated in the Electricity Act (2004) Section 17 subsections 2 which says that any objection to the tariff revision must be submitted to MERA in the prescribed manner and time,” observed Mkandawire.

He said the Electricity Act (2004) Section 17 subsection 3 subscribes that MERA shall consider the objections and tariff studies in terms of subsection (1), and shall for that purpose, arrange for a public hearing of the tariff revision at a suitable time and place of which not less than 14 days notice shall be given.

“However, to our dismay MERA and ESCOM are conducting themselves in the manner that is quite contrary to the Act as they are not providing a forum for a public hearing of the tariff revision to the consumers for possible modification of the proposed revisions,” bemoaned Mkandawire .

The director noted that disposable income of many Malawians who are ESCOM consumers is still low hence making it difficult for many of them to afford such punitive tariffs.

He said ESCOM and government were not considering the welfare of Malawian consumers by adopting the US Government and Millennium Challenge Corporation directives that are hitting hard on ordinary citizens.

“How can they decide to increase their tariffs while consumers are experiencing black outs every hour? ESCOM is failing to connect electricity to many Malawians while consumers are already charged exorbitant costs in order to get connected to power. They are also failing to rehabilitate their old plants and generate enough power to
serve the customers uninterruptedly,” wondered Mkandawire.

MCG then called on ESCOM to exercise highest level of transparency and accountability to its consumers who are heavily hampered by the escalating electricity tariffs and frequent power lapses.

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