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Electricity tariff hike bothers MPs

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Werani Chilenga

The Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change yesterday expressed its frustration with failure by the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) to engage it before implementing the 10.6 percent electricity tariff hike on March 30.

The committee summoned Escom and Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) officials to explain issues surrounding the tariff hike.

Its chairperson, Werani Chilenga, asked Escom to apologise for side-lining the committee on the matter and advised the power supplier to rescind the implementation of the new tariff, saying Malawians have been economically strained by the Covid crisis.

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“We are not telling them to rescind the decision only because they did not involve us but that they should go by what we agreed with Mera, to put on hold the tariff increase because we are in a very difficult situation,” Chilenga said.

During the meeting, Mera acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ishmael Chioko, claimed that immediately after they had announced the adjustments, the committee raised concerns and that the energy regulator, through a phone call, asked Escom to put the implementation on hold.

However, Escom acting CEO, Clement Kanyama, insisted there was no formal communication from Mera.

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“At no point did Mera communicate to Escom that implementation should be suspended. On March 30, this year, there was a meeting between chairpersons of Mera and Escom boards and the meeting confirmed the implementation,” Kanyama said.

The Natural Resources Committee also accused Mera of approving the adjustment in order to bail out Escom from the financial mess it found itself in due to alleged mismanagement of funds, at the expense of Malawians.

“We understand there is a report that points out who mismanaged the funds but we are yet to see it,” Chilenga said.

Mera Board Chairperson, Leonnard Chikadya, said the energy regulator only acted on a proposal from Escom and that there were no formal submissions attached to the proposal about impending issues it had with Parliament.

On whether Escom would adhere to the direction to rescind the implementation, Kanyama said the mandate lies with Mera as a regulatory body.

The committee has since advised the two institutions to engage on the matter and report back to Parliament before it reconvenes next month.

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