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.
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.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :