Consumers take Escom to task over poor service delivery

Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) developed an ambitious customer service charter in 2014 but it was kept from public scrutiny all these years until now that the Tonse government has tasked its new Board of Directors to embark on a serious business oriented turnaround strategy.

CAMA Executive Director John Kapito
Some of the participants
ESCOM CEO Allexon Chiwaya
ESCOM’s Commercial and Customer Service Senior Manager, Wiseman Kabwazi

The power utility service provider is now engaging with stakeholders and the public to review the customer service charter that was kept under wraps for six years to ensure that the corporation lives up to the expectations of its consumers in line with the new reforms.

The consultative workshops, done in conjunction with Consumer Association of Malawi (CAMA), have started in Blantyre on Monday and continues on Wednesday in Lilongwe and Friday in Mzuzu.

During the first workshop at Sunbird Mount Soche Hotel, customers took the State-owned utility body to task over unsatisfactory  service delivery.

CAMA’s executive director John Kapito said it was sad that the  customer service charter had been hidden from public scrutiny since 2014 but applauded ESCOM management for opening up to include the stakeholders in reviewing it.

He observed that even though the Charter was developed in-house, it had the consumer at heart but it was probably hidden from public scrutiny because ESCOM’s style of business was not in tandem with all that was contained in the blueprint document.

Kapito took cognizance since the new government has now tasked the Corporation to be business-oriented in its provision of services, the reviewed Charter should now be best-suited with the reforms ESCOM has developed.

He also said it should be based on the key performance indicators under Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) and should address all the views and feedbacks from the stakeholders from the consultative meetings.

The consumer rights activist also observed that it was unfortunate that the public utility service provider has not up to now shared the reforms which it was tasked to undertake, saying this was also equally important for the public to know so that it can be tasked if the reforms are not meeting the public’s expectations.

He said ESCOM should also review the Charter in line with how much power generation is available as supplied by Energy Generation Company (EGENCO) in order to meet some of the obligations it is setting out to provide.

During discussion time, the participants vented all the frustrations of ESCOM’s poor service delivery that the public face, such as the continued power blackouts, power outages, inefficient response to reported faults and poor public relations attitude.

The participants also bemoaned the long periods that take for consumers to be connected to power long after they have paid for the services.

In his presentation, Commercial and Customer Service Senior Manager, Wiseman Kabwazi — in presence of Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Allexon Chiwaya — also took cognizance that ESCOM could have done better in making sure that the Charter was well executed.

He said the new Charter will now work alongside the reforms ESCOM has developed to make sure that they meet all the targets that shall be set.

The 2014 Charter was a commitment to provide quality services and to strive to be courteous, polite and be customer-oriented.

It committed, amongst other services, to provide a quotation for a new service application within 14 days from date of receiving an application from the customer and provide such new service within 30 days the consumer has paid for cable connection and a meter.

Escom also strived to provide a new service connection within 60 days for premises requiring not more than 10 poles cable connection and a meter.

The utility body also strived to provide prepaid meters to all new meters except for industrial customers and to transfer all existing postpaid to prepayment.

It strived to attend reported meter faults within 4 hours and restore electricity supply interruptions caused by simple faults within 4 hours as well as resolve general complaints within 10 working days.

The Charter also said ESCOM was to attend to customers within 15 minutes at any customer service centre and to inform consumers of planned power supply interruption not less than 48 hours before work commences.

On the concerns raised at the meeting on the inefficient response to reported faults and poor public relations attitude, Kabwazi said ESCOM has budgeted to procure a software to come up with a 24/7 Call Centre facility that will be complemented with their existing online complaints service.

Kabwazi acknowledged that their staff need to work in line with the new reforms that have been set as well as the reviewed customer service charter in order to win the confidence of the public that has shrunk for far too long.

On the consumers’ part, ESCOM expects them to pay their bills on time for those on postpaid; to report cases of theft, illegal connections and vandalism of ESCOM equipment — such as transformer and cables — and not to damage or tamper with equipment such as meter and service wire.

Consumers are also asked to provide accurate information and to promptly cases of system failure, faults, dangerous occurrences, hazardous or potentially hazardous incidents.

In his remarks, CEO Chiwaya said ESCOM has been given a weighty task of turning around to the level where it will give Malawians a sense of satisfaction, pride and ownership in service delivery.

“The review of the customer service charter underscores the importance that ESCOM attach to meeting the expectations of our customers, the government, the private sector and all stakeholders in the service delivery,” he said.

“The customer service charter serves as a benchmark on which the expectations of ESCOM customers are gauged and helps ESCOM to police itself when supplying power to the country.”

He said with the reforms it has been tasked to undertake, “ESCOM cannot afford to conduct itself in a business-as-usual way”.

“I, therefore, plead with the general public to give us a benefit of doubt as we reboot into a responsive, efficient, prudent, relevant and vibrant organisation.

“This process may take us a bit of time but gradually, with the support of all of you, we will get there,” he said.

The participants also asked if ESCOM could release the draft charter into the public domain for other members’ input before it is finally documented and to also include other vernacular languages other than just Chichewa.

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ERUTU
ERUTU
7 months ago

LMC and SKC please start with the uprooting of ESCOM 2 first 👊🏿🇲🇼

Mazgo Awemi
7 months ago

Escom and Water Board need to be privatized if we want them to benefit Malawians equally because by doing so, they will do real business with efficiency. From the look of things, they are only politicians and influential people that benefit the services of Escom and Water Board. Equally, another institution that needs privatization is Judiciary. Services from Judiciary benefit politicians and influential people. The avaerage and poor are never assisted. Industrial court is the worst in Malawi with both Junior staff and Judges themselves are rude and not willing to help. One wonders how the reforms underway are of… Read more »

Nyundo
Nyundo
7 months ago

Huuuuuu connection within 30 or 60 days?? This has turn out to be 4 years now!!

Kachamba
Kachamba
7 months ago

I ve never been assisted by escom without giving something to escom officials in faults department…KWACHA FAULTS to be precise. You report a fault today….it takes ages for them to attend to it or even remain unattended to. If you just stay without paying something to someone, you will be in blackout until you buy solar panels and batteries as I ve done and leave them with their so called ref number for reported fault.

Help Investors
Help Investors
7 months ago

Urban development needs immediate attention by ESCOM, especially in Lilongwe. Malawians including those in diaspora are currently taking part investing in real estate – building single family homes, town houses and apartments in cities of Malawi. This trend will continue creating thousands and thousands of jobs while providing the most needed accommodation to many including tourists. President Chakwera announced recently the need to move some top Gvt institutions to Lilongwe. This means a lot more houses will be needed in Lilongwe. Also, for ESCOM to grow, they need new customers. In my view, ESCOM feels they have no obligation to… Read more »

Muhlabase
Muhlabase
7 months ago

Sayankha ma phone ku faults and it takes a month to have you sorted out.

Whiplash
Whiplash
7 months ago

The fact that Mr chiwaya says is a “weighty task” seems like he had already given up. As a CEO you are supposed be proactive and optimistic…guve your company a time frame and don’t say “this process will take time” how long will this time take Mr chiwaya 2 years maybe 5 years?! Give a time frame to the public so we can hold you and your staff accountable and that also makes you and your staff aware of the fact that there is a timetable. Othwise we are just sitting and waiting for a never ending change.

Benjones87
Benjones87
7 months ago

Escom very poor service.

ERUTU
ERUTU
7 months ago

ESCOM nthawi yanu yonyada yatha 🤔💡🔌🇲🇼

Khima
Khima
7 months ago

Chibweleleni ma prepaid meters ma faults okuti nyumba imodzi, ziwiri sizikuyaka magesi zinachuluka or ma meter kukana kulowesa magesi. I would suggest for now ESCOM engage well trained contractors allocated to sites otherwise they are overwhelmed and for some reason faults are rectified at mid nigh only.

Jarret
Jarret
7 months ago
Reply to  Khima

I don’t think there is a parastatal as hopeless as ESCOM.

Jarret
Jarret
7 months ago
Reply to  Khima

ESCOM simply drains tax payers’ money.

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