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Minister fumes at fuel ‘scandal’

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New Minister of Energy Newton Kambala has said he is shocked by reports of massive abuse of fuel at the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom).

Kambala has since said government will investigate the allegations to establish why people who were not working for the institution were allegedly able to draw massive amounts of fuel at the parastatal.

“We have seen those reports and we will investigate the matter,” Kambala said.

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Social media was on Monday and yesterday awash with lists of people, mostly members of the Democratic Progressive Party and others connected to the party in one or another, who are alleged to have drawn fuel worth millions of kwacha from Escom.

As of yesterday, it was not clearly known why Escom was giving fuel to the people who had no business with the organisation.

The institution’s Public Relations Manager, Innocent Chitosi, said they will cooperate with the investigators on the matter.

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“As you are aware, Escom is a government-owned company. And we all know that the new political administration has prioritised justice and the rule of law. Escom is ready to cooperate with investigators to get to the bottom of the issue.

“The investigation will also be in the interest of Escom employees who may have been deprived of their privileges as scarce resources may have ended up in wrong hands,” Chitosi said.

Social Commentator Moses Mkandawire described the development as shameful to the people who were managing both government and the institution.

“If it is true, then it is a criminal enterprise. It means that the country was being managed as a criminal enterprise. Had it been that the government had not changed, we would not have known about these things.

“What were the board and management of the institution thinking when approving such things to be happening under their watch? This is disgusting,” Mkandawire said.

He added that the reforms being spearheaded by Vice- President Saulos Chilima must ensure that they bring real change in the way of doing things in the public sector so that corruption and abuse of public resources are uprooted.

Mid 2018, Escom confirmed that it had lost K1.6 billion worth of fuel to theft. The fuel was alleged to have been stolen by a syndicate of people who included guards and transporters but to date, the public has not been informed about the progress on the matter.

At that time, Chitosi had said the power utility had had three million litres of fuel siphoned from its stations in Lilongwe and Blantyre. It later transpired that the amount was actually 4.2 million litres.

The revelation was made by Chilima at a political rally in Blantyre where he charged that there was a lot of rot at Escom where DPP officials were in free-for-all theft of Escom property. The party dismissed the allegations.

In another development, an audit report by the National Audit Office for the year 2016/17 exposed that Escom ordered goods worth K8.3 billion from about 23 suppliers without following internal procurement procedures and without the knowledge of key management.

The institution apparently only needed K3.2 billion of the items rendering the rest amount K5.1 billion having spent in vain.

Many more scandals have been reported about Escom before.

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