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$150 million energy funds lie idle


Werani Chilenga

By Wezzie Gausi:

A total of $150 million meant for the Malawi Electricity Access Project (Meap) has been lying idle at the Ministry of Energy for two years, despite the country experiencing a series of blackouts, The Daily Times has established.

Parliament in 2019 approved the World Bank loan to undertake Meap as part of the implementation modalities for the National Energy Policy of 2018.

The project was supposed to commence in 2020.

Chairperson for the Natural Resources and Climate Change Committee of Parliament, Werani Chilenga, said $105 million was meant to be used by the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) while the Ministry of Energy was supposed to get $30 million.

$15 million is for capacity building for both the ministry and Escom.

Director of Energy Joseph Kalowekamo has confirmed that the ministry got the funds but insisted everything is now being done to ensure the works benefit Malawians as soon as possible.

Chilenga said it was illogical that nothing had happened with the money.

He said the whole aim of the funds was to increase electricity access from 11 percent to 30 percent by 2030, a thing which he sees not happening.

“We have been crying day in and day out because of electricity blackouts but we have the money that is lying idle without being used. At the pace at which we are going, we risk losing the money.

“When we queried the ministry about the money, they said it was the issue of long procurement processes that is delaying the rollout of the project. On the other hand, Escom is blaming the ministry for the delayed implementation,” Chilenga said.

He added that the funds were also meant to help in the interconnections between Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa under the Southern Africa Power Pool.

“The money is also meant to connect 300,000 households for free to have access to electricity. We have the money but nothing is happening on the ground,” he added.

Escom Chief Executive Officer Kamkwamba Kumwenda said they are waiting for relevant approving agencies to grant ‘No Objection’ as the procedure is to procure through open tender.

He said Escom cannot proceed without such approvals by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority, the Office of the President and Cabinet, the Anti-Corruption Bureau and Ministry of Justice.

“We submitted our paper but the institutions have not come back to us; they are still looking at the tenders. It is the time they take which is worrisome.

“Prices are subject to change and if they change by more than 15 percent we have to resubmit them and wait again,” Kumwenda said.

Kalowekamo admitted that the ministry received the money from the World Bank but that they have delayed to commence the implementation due to long procurement processes.

He said they expect some of the materials for the project that were procured outside Malawi to be in by August end.

“We must admit that nothing has happened to the money that we received. We were faced with problems of devaluation and other processes of finding contractors. But everything will be in place soon,” Kalowekamo said.

Last week a joint parliamentary committee had an inquiry with all players in the energy sector on the electricity blackouts in Malawi.

The blackouts have been a regular feature in the country since January this year after flash floods induced by Tropical Storm Ana damaged a dam at Kapichira Hydropower Plant in Chikwawa, taking 130 megawatts of electricity off the national grid.

Government has come under fire for its purported laidback approach to the electricity crisis, with various stakeholders wondering whether funds could not be sourced from within the national budget or other convenient lines to finance the rehabilitation of the facility.

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