* Assigned team members will use ESCOM-branded vehicles; dressed in branded company regalia and will carry official IDs
* For more information to contact the exercise’s supervisors — D. Kamanga (South) on 0888 313 111; O. Mmangisa (Centre) on 0888 354 493 and F. Kapindula (North) on 0888 874 386
* These supervisors could be contacted during work hours 07:30hrs-17:00hrs from Monday to Friday
By Duncan Mlanjira
From Monday, August 1, Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) is rolling out a two-month countrywide meter verification and revenue protection exercise, which is also to afford the national power utility service provider an opportunity to appreciate the challenges which its customers face as regards to meters to help it enhance service delivery.
In a statement issued today, Friday July 29, ESCOM says during the exercise, a team of assigned employees shall visit households and establishments that use electricity to verify meter account details and meter functionality.
Thus, ESCOM urges its customers to cooperate with the assigned employees during the meter verification, emphasizing that they are assigned to visit during work hours across the country.
ESCOM stresses that the assigned team members will use ESCOM-branded vehicles; and that they would be dressed in branded company regalia and will carry their official identification (ID) cards.
The company thus pleads with the customers to grant the assigned personnel access to their premises and assist them with meter account information when they seek clarification.
And where they need more information, customers are encouraged to contact the exercise’s assigned team supervisors — D. Kamanga (South) on 0888 313 111; O. Mmangisa (Centre) on 0888 354 493 and F. Kapindula (North) on 0888 874 386.
These supervisors could be contacted during work hours 07:30hrs-17:00hrs from Monday to Friday.
The intention to carry out the verification exercises came about in March this year when ESCOM busted a syndicate which has defrauded the company of over K60 billion worth of pre-paid meter units since 2018 that were sold on parallel structures to companies and individuals.
This was reported to have been discovered when ESCOM made surprise visits to suspected establishments, mostly owned by Malawians of Asian origins, who — if they had not been busted — would not have been buying electricity units from ESCOM for the next five years.
ESCOM Chief Executive Officer, Kamkwamba Kumwenda indicated in March when the busting exercise was rolled out that the syndicate has been going on since the company migrated to pre-paid meter billing system.
Kumwenda, who had then just been appointed as CEO, emphasized that the company would name and shame all people who would be involved in such illegal activities because “ESCOM is losing a lot of money every year due to such unpatriotic tendencies”.
High profile establishments caught to have been buying electricity from parallel markets, included Kips Restaurant in Blantyre, Galitos in Lilongwe as well as Member of Parliament Shadric Namalomba’s Mulanje-based Nalipiri Eco Resort, which violated tariff principles through which it effected transfers from domestic to business premises.
Also discovered was Sabina Batatawala, a relation to one of the country’s top corruption suspects, Karim Abdul Batatawala — being investigated by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in the landmark corruption charges — who was discovered by ESCOM to have been consuming electricity units in violation of tariff principles.
Just this week, the High Court’s Commercial Division in Blantyre rejected an injunction application which Chinese company, Zhang Di t/a Yangtse made stopping ESCOM from deducting the firm’s 60% of every new electricity purchase.
Zhang Di t/a Yangtse sought the court’s intervention following ESCOM’s decision to reverse unauthorised transfer of electricity to the company’s meters and illegal consumption of electricity totalling K46 million.
During the period since March, ESCOM also indicated that they discovered many customers who were buying units at single phase tariff while on the ground they have 3 phase.
During a court in May involving MP Nambaloma and ESCOM, the company’s revenue protection supervisor of investigations, Morris Lingomanje disclosed three tariff categories of single-phase domestic (applicable to residential single-phase charging K92.30 inclusive VAT per kWh); single-phase general tariff (applicable to single phase business installation charging K136.65 inclusive VAT per kWh); and three-phase general tariff — applicable to three-phase business installation charging K151.10 inclusive VAT per kWh.
ESCOM continues to urge its customers who suspect or know that their meter functionality was tampered with to declare such issues, while indicating that “those who do not declare and only get identified during the verification exercise, will be named in the public media”.