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Survey finds Escom corrupt

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The enterprise baseline survey, commissioned by the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA-Malawi), shows a general perception that Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) members of staff are corrupt and only respond to companies and individuals that bribe them.

According to the survey findings, 64 percent of firms perceived corruption within Escom as a “major problem” and 21 percent believed it was a “problem”.

The evaluation was done between 2015 and 2016 as part of the $350.7 million Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Infrastructure Development and Power Sector Reform Projects. It shows—that 1,024 enterprises were surveyed between 2015 and 2016 to document the baseline energy situation and challenges firms faced before compact benefits were realised.

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“About 59 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that Escom personnel are more responsive to businesses that provide gifts or make informal payments…67 percent agreed with the statement that Escom personnel were more responsive to businesses with personal contacts in Escom,” the copy of the findings reads in part.

The findings also indicate that 16 percent of firms applying for a connection service reported that an Escom employee had solicited a gift or informal payment to expedite the process.

But according to the survey report, Escom employees view the findings as a false perception, arguing that corruption is perpetuated by unscrupulous electricians who charge and pocket clients’ money which they claim is for bribes.

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The enterprises will be surveyed again in 2019 to study changes in outcomes over the period of the programme implementation.

The baseline survey also showed that electricity problems are a major constraint on business in Malawi, power outages result in considerable costs to business and unreliable electricity makes it difficult for firms to produce goods and services on time.

“Unfortunately, the power situation for Malawian businesses and households has worsened since data collection,” the conclusion of the findings reads.

Escom is no stranger to controversy. Late last year, the power utility company was embroiled in a $73 million gen sets procurement scandal.

The Office of the Director of Public Procurement (ODPP) cancelled the procurement after it noted that there were some technical anomalies during the process.

The ODPP also noted that Electricity Generation Company was responsible for generation of power and was, therefore, the rightful institution to procure the stand by generators. Escom still went ahead and hired the gen sets despite the objection. The gen sets have since been planted in Kanengo, Lilongwe and Chichiri sub-station in Blantyre, adding 55 megawatts to the grid.

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