ESCOM faulted for using project money to clear its backlog

An ESCOM worker at work

The country's utility provider ESCOM has come under fire for using funds from the Malawi Electricity Access Project (MEAP) money to clear its backlog of electricity applications.

Committee Chairperson Werani Chilenga stated that  a bill was passed in Parliament authorizing government to borrow $150 million from the World Bank for the Electricity access project.

MEAP’s goal is to increase access to electricity in Malawi through among others off-grid market development fund in addressing the challenges to scaling up the off grid market.

It also aims to finance cost-effective priority investments in grid electrification by providing electricity supply to households living in close proximity to an existing distribution infrastructure leveraging on the geospatial analysis to maximize the number of connections under the financing

The five year project will be implemented by Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) and the Ministry of Energy.

Chilenga stressed that the project came through the Electricity access bill with several components one of which was the free connection of 300, 000 households.

Some of the government and ESCOM officials captured during the interface

“One of them was free connection of 300,000 households; these 300,000 households are supposed to be connected for free according to the Bill. The second component was the drop down transformers. 

“So when implementing the project, they are supposed to implement according to how the bill was passed; 300,000 households must be connected for free. Now what has happened is that ESCOM is doing it different, they want to use that money to cleat the backlog and say that this is Access to electricity. That’s not true, they should implement the project according to what it stated in the bill” enthused the legislator

He therefore clarified that it is wrong therefore to divert from what was indicated in the Bill implementing the project using the money to clear its backlog.

Ministry of Energy Principal secretary Alfonso Chikuni indicated that he is yet to see the project appraisal document but if it’s true, it’s not the right thing to do as a matter of principle.

“We have committed to come back to the Committee with a clear picture. If the Committee is accurate about the architecture scope of the project, we’ll have to stop it because ESCOM is assumed to have already received money for the connections from the customers; so they’ll have to use those resources and the resources for MEAP are meant for the project as designed in the appraisal document”.

During the meeting which took place at Parliament, ESCOM officials disclosed that it has about 64,000 backlog of cases of applicants waiting to be connected to the grid.