By Wezzie Gausi
The Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change has given the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) up to December 31, 2021, to transfer its single buyer functions to Power Marketing Limited (PML).
Chairperson of the committee, Werani Chilenga, told The Daily Times on Friday that since March 2020, the law bars Escom from conducting duties under a single buyer system as it does not have a single buyer licence.
Escom has only the distribution and transmission licences as the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) had transferred a single buyer system licence to PML.
PML is a creation of the power sector reform project under the $350.7 million (K242 billion) five-year Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) energy compact that aimed at improving power generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure.
Mera granted PML a licence under section 3 of the Electricity Act in December 2020, to buy all electricity from independent power producers (IPPs), including importing and selling the electricity in Malawi.
Chilenga wondered why Escom was still doing the functions that are now under PML.
“The committee was informed that in March, 2020, due to the concerns from Escom on the single buyer licence, the Ministry of Energy had resolved that the licence transfer process be frozen for a period of six months to look into the Escom’s concerns. The six months’ period had expired in September 2020 but there was no clear direction on the transfer of the licence.
“After noting the anomaly the issue was brought to the parliament where we had a roundtable discussion with Mera, Ministry of Energy, PML, Escom and Attorney General. In the discussions, the Attorney General faults Escom for acting illegally and has been given up to December 31, to stop doing what they are not supposed to,” Chilenga said.
During the meeting, according to the Chilenga, Escom told the committee that it was still operating as a single buyer to fill the vacuum during the transitional process.
“However, the committee noted that Escom was clinging to the single buyer licence and its operations were unlawful since the licence was with PML,” he said.
He, further, said to conclude the discussion the AG, informed the committee that Escom had the distribution and transmission licences only, hence it was illegal for Escom to operate the single buyer licence which was transferred to PML.
In an interview with The Daily Times, a PML top official who opted for anonymity said they are worried that, when Escom collects the money they do not deposit it into a power settlement account which is managed by PML.
“What is illegal here is Escom collecting the money and not depositing the money into the account which we are the rightful users mandated by the law,” said the official.
When contacted on Saturday, Escom Acting Chief Executive Officer, Clement Kanyama, referred the matter to the company’s spokesperson, Innocent Chitosi who could not pick his phone.
But a senior official from the power distributor confided in The Daily Times that the controversy emanates from a lack of sanity in the agreement between the power distributor, Ministry of Energy and PML.
The official who opted for anonymity said Escom was also surprised that the single buyer powers are being transferred to PML yet all parties agreed to freeze the process.