Nocma on fire for fuel crisis

Moses Kunkuyu

Malawi is reeling in this fuel crisis today because of the National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma).

That is according to Minister of Information and Digitalization, Moses Kunkuyu.

Kunkuyu said at a press briefing Friday in Lilongwe that the country is in this fuel mess because Nocma has been sitting on fuel supply contracts since August last year.


According to him, while scarcity of forex remains one of the underlying factors for the fuel shortage, Nocma is to blame for not working on new contracts for suppliers as the previous ones were getting to expiry last year.

Kunkuyu said since last year, the country has been getting fuel from two suppliers — instead of four.

This has effectively reduced the volumes of the gas needed by the country, he said.


“In August 2022, Nocma management was advised to get new contracts as the others were expiring.

“The process was expected to start by September but nothing happened from August to October. They were again told about it in November and the process started on December 19, 2022.

“We would not have had this crisis had Nocma started the process in August, 2022,” Kunkuyu said.

He said the country has been depending on two suppliers after another two exhausted their supply volumes and were not offered new contracts.

“We are now being supplied fuel with less [number of] contractors. If we had not delayed that process to have new contracts, we would have had fuel now. Now the fewer contractors we have are overwhelmed,” Kunkuyu added.

The Nocma contracts saga aside, Kunkuyu said the forex situation remains gloomy.

“We do not have forex. So getting fuel depends on the relations we have with the suppliers,” he admitted.

He said the mission of the government officials who travelled to Tanzania last week was to negotiate for supply of fuel on credit in the absence of forex and delayed letters of credit.

Giving a picture of the fuel status at the moment, Kunkuyu indicated that the crisis will persist until forex is available and new contracts are signed.

He said Malawians may begin to see some positive changes in fuel supply from Wednesday next week as some quantities of fuel have been loaded and are now in transit to Malawi.

According to the figures which Kunkuyu gave, under Petroleum Importers Limited, the country Friday received 494,000 litres of petrol and were distributed to filling stations.

And 1.3 million litres were loaded at Beira and expected to arrive in the country today while 5.5 million litres are expected to arrive from Monday next week.

Under Nocma, 760,000 litres of petrol have arrived in the country while 1.9 million litres were loading at Beira and expected to arrive on Monday.

In addition, 21 million litres of petrol were loading at Dar-es- Salaam and expected to arrive next week.

Acting Chief Executive Officer for Nocma, Micklas Reuben, who was present at the news conference told Malawi News in an exclusive interview at the presser that since August, only one fuel contract has been signed and other three are still under vetting.

“The process has gone through and it is about to conclude,” Reuben said.

But he dismissed allegations that Nocma board chairperson, Colleen Zamba, has been refusing to sign the contracts.

He said under the Public Procurement of Declaration of Assets law, Nocma board chairperson does not sign fuel contracts.

In August 2021, the Anti- Corruption Bureau arrested former Minister of Energy Newton Kambala, Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Enock Chihana and presidential advisor Chris Chaima Banda over allegations of interference with fuel supply contracts at Nocma.

The matter is still in court.

In November last year, former Nocma deputy Chief Executive Officer Hellen Buluma alleged during a parliamentary inquiry that Zamba gave her pressure on the awards of contracts.

As we went to press last evening, the fuel crisis had worsened with extraordinary queues in the country’s cities and districts.

Many motorsists are spending most of their time at gas stations.

Vendors have taken advantage of the situation to sell fuel on the black market up to as much as K4,000 per litre in some areas against the normal price of K1,700.

The shortage has also led to rise in bus fares in some routes by as much as 60 percent.

Nocma is a government-owned company, mandated to manage the country’s Strategic Fuel Reserve (SFRs) facilities in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu which have a total storage capacity of 60 million litres.

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