The Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Environment has asked Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) and power utility Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) to rescind the decision to hike electricity tariffs.
The committee— which held a meeting with officials from Mera, Escom and State-owned Electricity Generation Company (Egenco) yesterday at Parliament Building in Lilongwe—further wants the two bodies to issue a public apology to Malawians for the decision announced early in the year.
Committee chairperson Werani Chilenga expressed discomfort over the decision to effect the adjustment during the Covid-19 pandemic which has hurt many people economically.
He said: “You must apologise to Malawians and rescind the adjustment. This is the Committee on Natural Resources, and we are telling Malawians that they should not be burning charcoal and yet electricity is very expensive. Between Escom and Malawians, whom should we be bailing out?”
In an interview after the meeting, Escom acting chief executive officer Clement Kanyama was at pains to explain whether they will issue a public apology.
On whether the company will rescind the tariff hike, he said the “authority on adjustment of electricity tariffs is with Mera” and Escom has no mandate on the matter.
Said Kanyama: “As pointed out in the meeting, the communication from Mera is dated March 29. We at Escom received the communication giving adjustments to certain tariff lines, four in total. The total increase is about 10.2 percent.
“As we pointed out, at no point did Mera communicate to Escom that implementation of that tariff adjustment should be suspended. Indeed, on the 30th March there was a meeting which involved the chairpersons of Mera and Escom which confirmed that implementation of the tariff should be implemented.”
But Chilenga insisted that Mera should rescind the decision, saying Escom is motivated by hunger for money.
Earlier, Escom and Mera officials attempted to explain to the committee that the decision was based on consultations and necessitated by the Escom’s predicament which requires a financial bailout, but the committee members rejected the position.
One of the committee members, Rumphi North East legislator Kamlepo Kaluwa (People’s Party), faulted the officials for bypassing the committee on consultations for the electricity tariff hike and for saddling the taxpayer and electricity consumer with huge bills to cover up the utility company’s inefficiencies.
Escom officials explained that the company had in January sought to consult with the committee prior to the announcement of the adjustment of the tariffs but failed to do so after Parliament suspended all committee meetings due to Covid-19.
However, the explanation failed to move the committee which rejected requests by Escom officials to make presentations on what necessitated the tariff hike.
Mera officials could not immediately speak to the press on the way forward on the matter.
But earlier, Mera board chairperson Leonard Chikadya told the committee that the authority had initially postponed a decision to adjust the tariffs in consultations with the Minister of Energy Newton Kambala who was due to speak in Parliament on the matter.
He said Mera later announced the adjustment, citing the need to ensure Escom’s economic viability and response to other economic factors.