With claims of corruption and bootleg deals in the procurement of standby generators that were expected to add 78 megawatts (MW) to the national grid to minimise the intensity of current blackouts, opposition members of Parliament (MPs) took government to task in Parliament.
Raising a question is national importance, Kasungu Central MP Amon Nkhata (Malawi Congress Party – MCP), registered concerns over a letter which is going viral on social media from employees of Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom), the distributor of electricity.
He wondered why, after Electricity Generation Company (Egenco) invited bids for the supply of diesel generators, there was no information on the successful suppliers or notice to those who have failed.
When Nkhata wanted to name and shame suspected culprits in the genset deal, Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya stopped him, saying Standing Orders (law governing the deliberations in the House) forbid MPs mentioning people who cannot defend themselves in the House.
In the initial procurement process, nine companies, including JocobsenElekro AS, Aggreko, AKSA Enerji Rental Power, APR Energy, Almagamated Power Solution (APS), Altaaq Global CAT, So Energy International, Greenheart Energy Limited and Sino Hydro were shortlisted for supply of three generators that were to be stationed in three lots each at Mapanga in Blantyre, Kanengo in Lilongwe and Chinyama in Kasungu.
In December 2016 Escom evaluation committee recommended that lots one and two in Mapanga and Kanengo, respectively, be awarded to APR Energy with evaluated respective prices of $34.6 million and $24.9 million while lot three at Chinyama in Kasungu was recommended for award to Aggreko International Projects for $18.9 million.
But when the bids’ evaluation team presented its report to the internal procurement committee (IPC) for approval, the evaluation recommendations were not upheld.
“Mindful that the board rejected the agreement, but certain powers that be pushed it through, there are some selfish individuals who would like to cash in on these blackouts,” Nkhata said, asking Minister of Energy, Aggrey Massi to explain.
He asked the Minister to “come clear” on government’s position regarding the generators.
“Is it leasing, hiring or procuring because these mean different things,” Nkhata said.
People’s Party (PP) leader in the House, who is also MP for NkhataBay Central, Ralph Mhone queried why Escom has usurped the mandate of Egenco.
Minister of Finance, Goodall Gondwe explained that Escom and Egenco were all tasked to resolve the challenge of power blackouts.
“Over and above that Egenco is doing, Escom will be hiring and this will be expected to be completed between December and end January. We believe we will substantially mitigate the situation,” Gondwe told parliament
Dedza East MP (MCP), Juliana Lunguzi, demanded facts on costs, saying there is “a worry” that the generators may cost the tax-payer more.
“I am using K20 000 in a smaller household for five days. The question is, is a person of Mkatakataka, Golomoti going to afford the expenses?”
Massi said the generators that Escom is hiring would be used for two years only.
And Gondwe said government is hoping that the hiring of the gensets “will mitigate the problem [of blackout]” but admitted the fuel supply would be a challenge.
Malawi currently is experiencing extended hours of blackouts that have seen some areas going between 15 to18 hours without electricity.
Leader of opposition in Parliament Lazarus Chakwera recently challenged President Mutharika to demonstrate seriousness to resolve the energy crisis facing the country by fast-tracking interim solutions to extended power outages.
Chakwera, who is also MCP president, also asked the President to punish officers involved in the botched generators procurement deal at Escom.
Chakwera called for a public enquiry into the foiled generators deal, saying many businesses have virtually ground to a halt, with operators of butcheries, salons, maize mills, welding utilities and hatcheries losing businesses.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :