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Escom was their play ground

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Puludzu

Arrests continued this week in relation to fraud, corruption and general impunity that took place in the past six years in this country.

While some arrested suspects were given bail, others are still on remand as I write this, waiting for the mercy of the courts to go home to their families to wait for their trials.

The cast, among others, were Collins Magalasi, Ken Ndanga, Dorothy Shonga, Norman Chisale and the list can go on until cows come home.

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Then you have HRDC launching a whistle blowing initiative leading to the public handing in a lot of documents on the fraud and corruption of the past six years and public bodies such as Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) and Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority are at the centre of it all.

The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is the agency in the news trying to chase the ‘bad guys’ and it is as busy as a beehive.

Simply put, as a nation, we are getting used to having a dosage of bad news every day and coming to grips with how bad the country was governed for the past six years.

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If you ask me, then I would say Escom was the worst hit—the play-ground where all manner of fraud, corruption, overpricing, bad procurement, political interference, abuse of resources—took place.

It was Escom that was designated as where Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) party functionaries including governors from all political regions were getting fuel and other benefits from.

It was at Escom where CEOs and finance directors were forced by board members and other top officials in government to award contracts to their preferred bidders against those that had capacity and even offering low competitive bids—leading to loss of billions in unused materials and sheer corruption.

It was at Escom where management was forced to procure bulbs at K3 billion as if we, consumers, told the state company we cannot afford our own bulbs but it was all done to please powers that be to make billions in kickbacks and over pricing.

It was at Escom where millions upon millions of litres of diesel fuel has been lost through dubious ways and until now management cannot tell Malawians who has been arrested.

It was Escom that paid millions to the DPP by gracing their Blue Nights and its management buying tables to please former president Peter Mutharika and his sycophants.

It was Escom that was giving out its houses in cities to be occupied by DPP functionaries and were paying no rent for more than five years.

Once again, I can go on and on until the cows come home. The point is Escom was abused and ran down mercilessly that today it is on a brink of collapse and it is begging for a bailout from our taxes.

This week was no different for the state company.

It was in the picture again and the issue is that generators that were procured for K57 billion to supplement the power deficit were irregularly done, with top bosses in government interfering in their procurement once again amid reports of bribes and kickbacks.

The plea of many Malawians to the new government is that Escom probably needs special attention in this era of cleaning the rabble.

It needs drastic action that should span from top management all the way to the new board that will be appointed any time so that it starts all over again.

The larger picture is that we must find the long term sustainable way of stopping politicians who greedily and illegally grab resources from parastatals and state companies through abuse.

Those that abused Escom must face the law to primarily pay back what they stole and then later serve jail terms for it.

In all this, ACB will be on the spotlight.

The bureau will have tough questions to answer from the public.

Malawians, for example, are asking why some of these cases at Escom which were reported as early as 2016 have not been prosecuted by the ACB during all these years?

Was someone in the DPP government stopping ACB from making arrests? Who is that someone?

The current climate, in which ACB is freer than before to go after the bad guys, should afford us a chance to look at the operating environment for the fight against corruption and examine how politics influences which cases are investigated and which ones are not. It has to stop.

We must then examine ACB’s capacity bearing in mind that now it has too much on its hands and it is all over the place including at Immigration this week where it went for search and seizure operation.

Does it not need a helping hand to prosecute and convict all these cases that they are starting almost on daily basis?

Arresting people is one thing but convicting them is yet another ball game all together and currently the system does not seem to give hope that justice will finally be served and all wrongs of the past will be corrected.

But for Escom, it is a special hopeless case that needs special divine intervention—it was a playground for the DPP functionaries

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