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Committee quizzes Mera on fuel deals

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Shadreck Namalomba

The Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises Committee of Parliament on Tuesday took officials from the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) to task over wrangles in the fuel importation business, a development that has resulted in National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) introducing a new fuel importation method called Delivered at Place Unloaded (DPU).

The committee raised the query when Mera delegation— composed of Director of Liquid Fuels and Gas Alinafe Nkaveya, Director of Finance Zacharia Ng’oma and Jacob Nyirongo from the Directorate of Economic Regulation Services— appeared before committee members to explain how the energy regulator handled the recent strike by truck drivers.

A member of the committee, Joseph Mwanamvekha, demanded to know, from the Mera officials, the authorised way of importing fuel into Malawi.

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“I am asking you as a regulator. What is the authorised way of importing fuel in Malawi? Is it Ex-tank, Delivered Duty Unpaid or DPU?

“When you are responding to that, I want you to take into account the determination that was made by the court, another determination by ACB [Anti-Corruption Bureau] and also a position that was taken by your board,” Mwanamvekha said.

Responding to the query, Nkaveya told the committee that Mera’s stand had not changed on the matter.

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“In terms of Mera’s stand, on the wrangles that have been there with Nocma on the mode of importation, I am sure the honourable member from Chiradzulu has already explained and has clarified already Mera board’s stand. We have also seen in the papers the developments that are coming through.

“Our board will be meeting, I think in a week, and will be able to issue a statement in terms of how we go forward. But I am sure the House was updated, some reports were circulated to the House and Mera’s position was also shared. So, we don’t have any position contrary to that as of now,” Nkaveya said.

Members of the committee also wanted to know, from the Mera officials, if there was a possibility of removing some levies from the fuel price build-up as one way of lowering fuel pump prices.

Currently, there are a total of eight levies on fuel, which include the Energy Regulation Levy, the Road Levy, MBS Cess, Rural Electrification Levy, Storage Levy, Distribution Fund, Carbon Tax and Price Stabilisation Fund Levy.

But Mera Director of Finance Zacharia Ng’oma said the fuel levies were set by the Ministry of Finance, with Mera as an implementing agency.

Ng’oma said the Treasury had the powers to remove the levies.

But Mwanamvekha warned fellow lawmakers that cutting or suspending some of the levies such as the Road Levy and the Rural Electrification Levy could have negative consequences on the development of rural areas.

Last week, the Public Accounts Committee (Pac) of Parliament expressed worry over Nocma’s decision to disregard orders from the High Court and the ACB in the award of 2021-22 fuel importation deals.

Pac Chairperson Shadreck Namalomba said the way Nocma had handled the issue of fuel importation contracts from the start smacked of under-hand dealings.

He said they were in the process of summoning Nocma officials to justify their actions.

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