CAMA advises President Chakwera to declare power blackouts as national crisis

Consumers Association of Malawi (CAMA) has advised President Lazarus Chakwera to take the scarcity and continued countrywide power blackouts as a national economic and social crisis.

The President is also being asked to establish a Commission of Inquiry that will investigate the continued blackouts and poor workmanship at both Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) and Energy Generation Company (EGENCO).

Executive Director John Kapito

Chakwera is also asked to take up matters regarding poor electricity supply other than transferring such a responsibility to the Ministry of Energy, “which has already failed to find solutions over the last years, despite making empty promises”.

“The Commission of Inquiry should investigate and explain to Malawians why we have long and continued blackouts and assess the management quality of ESCOM, who recently have proposed the closure of ESCOM and providing conflicting tariff proposals that have misled consumers,” said CAMA’s Executive Director, John Kapito in a statement.

Last week, CAMA also issued its concerns on ESCOM’s proposal to raise tariffs, saying the company needs to improve on critical Key Performance Indicators because “an increase in tariff alone will not get them out of the mess they have found themselves in.

The consumer protection body asked the Government “to hire capable people in ESCOM”, saying the company’s operations are “key for both direct investment and local business environment” and that Malawi needs to, quickly as soon as possible,  review the operations of ESCOM.

“We are appealing to employees of ESCOM that they have no mandate to request for the shutdown of ESCOM as we believe there are so many capable Malawians that can run ESCOM efficiently at the current tariff,” Kapito said last week.

The Key Performance Indictors include:

1. Sales revenue — Electricity Revenue has been decreasing over the past years and partly attributed to the shutting down of Kapichira and the discontinued use of Aggreko Diesel gensets and this had nothing to do with the tariff;

2. Energy sales — These went down drastically and ESCOM was unable to find alternatives and this has reduced their revenues as a result of continued blackouts without taking measures to restructure its heavy bloated and expensive structure;

3. Connection targets (new customers) — Access to Electricity in Malawi is currently at approximately 12% and ESCOM is still struggling and failing to meet its targets on new connections and they have failed badly under this Key Performance Indicator, the number of consumers connected to electricity during this phase is so negligible while Consumers continued demand connectivity;

4. System losses — ESCOM continues to make heavy system losses and these losses continue draining ESCOM’s revenue generation and unfortunately ESCOM has done nothing to address these challenges and yet it demands a tariff increase;

5. Collection efficiency — ESCOM’s biggest debtor and consumer is Government and ESCOM is failing to collect its debt from Government and this has affected the operations of ESCOM. These are revenues if collected can assist ESCOM to implement most of its functions and overall its collection efficiency is one of the poorest that cannot sustain its operations.

In today’s statement, Kapito maintains that the “implications of poor electricity supply continue to hurt the country economically and socially, especially the poor and therefore this matter must be given the highest Presidential intervention and the choice of the Ministry of Energy diminishes our trust in such investigations”.

“The President must be seen to be concerned with continued blackouts — some that appear to be as a result of sabotage; the President must be concerned and ashamed when airplanes are failing to land in the country because the country has no electricity at the Airports; the President must be concerned about the misleading and unwarranted statements from the top management of ESCOM requesting for its closure, unfortunately all these failures are attributed to you.”

He said these failures are attributed to President as a result of the choices he has made by “appointing people that have no capacity to manage strategic institutions”.

“Mr. President, it is your name and credibility at stake and you need to rise up for once and deal with this huge national economic energy crisis and we hope you will appoint a credible commission to investigate these shameful national energy disasters.

“Malawians are tired and expect serious leadership from you Mr. President, show Malawians that you care and we hope soon we can see reforms in the energy sector. Let’s rise up and start delivering on key economic pillars — Malawians are tired of poverty created by weak systems and mismanagement.

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