Consumer Association of Malawi (CAMA) says it has for a long time expressed its concerns regarding the abuse of funds under the Malawi Rural Electrification Program (MAREP) — such as the lack of transparency and accountability.
Thus CAMA is now appealing to Members of Parliament “to review the MAREP Act and ensure it operates as a well regulated independent entity”.
Addressed to Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly, Kondwani Nankhumwa and copied to the Principal Secretaries in Ministries of Energy and Justice, CAMA Executive Director, John Kapito says the MAREP program “has been running for a long time and despite the huge sums of money being collected there has been very little to show for as the program is shrouded with high levels of corruption”.
“There has been no attempt by Government to explain or inform the taxpayers/consumers how these funds over the years have been used and how many consumers have benefited from the electricity connections.
“The huge sums of money collected under this MAREP Program have been abused through the award of dubious contracts to non-performing contractors and poor quality of workmanship.
“And over the years, MAREP contracts are awarded to those that are politically connected with the ruling party and the quality of workmanship under this program has been substandard.”
Kapito maintains that “despite the huge amount of money being wasted under this program” there is still a large number of Malawians yet to connected to electricity.
Thus CAMA’s appeal to Nankhumwa and the rest of the legislators to review the Act and to ensure that MAREP program “must have a time frame under which it can continue operating and collecting taxes from consumers as it has now outlived its objectives”.
“We are also appealing to Parliament to provide consumers with an update on how much has been generated under this tax and its impact or achievements over the years since it was established; how many people have benefited or been connected to electricity under this program since Malawi still remains one of the countries in SADC with the lowest number of people connected to electricity.
“Consumers have an obligation to pay taxes but we are also demanding Government to be transparent and accountable to motivate consumers in paying taxes.
“It is therefore unfortunate that most times public money like those under MAREP are abused through corruption and not benefiting the tax payers.”
In March this year, CAMA advised the Government to remove some levies on fuel prices such as Road, Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) CESS and the MAREP, saying once removed the three levies could assist to have reduced fuel pump prices.
In a statement issued to Clerk of Parliament, CAMA observed that MAREP levy, which has been part of the Petroleum Price Build up for a long time, “was intended to develop rural electricity connection infrastructure with hope to improve rural electricity access”.
“Unfortunately, this is a tax or levy whose accountability has been subjected to corruption and there is no significant impact on access to electricity for the rural masses. This is also one tax or levy that is loaded on a wrong and sensitive product like fuel and we are proposing if this tax is moved to taxes under electricity distribution or generation.”
This was after Kapito had also critiqued MAREP in January when he said the program “collects huge sums of money in form of tax that for years the Government has failed to account for and show how much it has impacted on access to electricity”.
He also asks the Government to explain in detail where it is going to get the money to provide such an expensive free electricity connection program, saying: “It is high time, therefore, that Government stopped cheating about free services.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :