Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe’s announcement in Parliament that Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) redemption lies in a probe to establish why it is in a financial mess is one hell of a bad idea.
It is actually not just a bad idea but hypocrisy, whose only value is to waste money which Escom badly needs and then waste everybody’s time.
There is just no need for any probe on Escom because the whole country knows who has damaged Escom and how the damage has been systematically done.
The present board chairman of Escom, Thomson Mpinganjira, is an honest man. He does not mince words and he is always candid.
You must understand Mpinganjira. He is a businessman and he owns a bank. He spends most of his time analysing financial statements and what they mean to the health of an organisation.
Mpinganjira has not been long at Escom as chairman but, as soon as he was thrust into the hot seat, it did not take him much time to establish that there is no company at Escom.
He discovered that the power utility has been ransacked through bad management and procurement decisions and would need an instant injection of K58 billion if it is to stay afloat.
He then went to the owner of the company, the shareholder, the government of Malawi, to consider fresh capitalisation of the entity if it wanted Escom to stay afloat.
But Goodall Gondwe has said, unlike Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation which was given a K45 billion bailout from the public purse, there will not be such a thing for Escom.
Mpinganjira, being a finance guru, instantly knew how else to raise money when the owners of the company do not have it, which is to borrow from the financial market and this is what his board is doing.
From the above narrative, it is clear what has hit Escom.
But in case Goodall wants details to help him decode what Mpinganjira is calling bad management and procurement decisions, I will volunteer to help the minister on what this is all about.
Just like all government entities in this country, Escom is a victim of political interference.
The media, specifically Times Group, exposed the mess at Escom, by, among other things, highlighting how Escom management was forced by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) politicians to buy goods its engineers did not need to the tune of over K5 billion.
In other instances, the Escom contracts were entered by the procurement department without even the knowledge of the then chief executive officer, John Kandulu.
A whole financial controller was forced to resign after she could not stomach the constant barrage of requests for payment from DPP politicians for the goods they had supplied without being needed at Escom.
Then there came the stupid idea imposed on Escom by the same DPP politicians that the constant blackouts in this country can be solved by the purchase, or is it hiring — of diesel generators.
When it came to choosing a company to deliver the generators, it was again carnage as various warring politicians from the DPP establishment rooted for various companies that came from as far as Turkey, the United States, India and South Africa, among other countries.
The generators are in and, as we all know, blackouts are still with us and families are still grappling with huge energy bills as they seek alternative sources of energy for homes. Companies are also in a mess.
As you can see, this is a clear story but it explains what has clearly hit Escom and, so, the question is: What is it that Gondwe wants the so called taskforce to probe at Escom?
This is not a matter of Gondwe’s taskforce to deal with. Rather, this is for the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) to deal with.
The bureau was conducting a probe on the matter and it must explain to the Malawian people what has happened to it.
There was a point when an ACB investigating officer was pulled out from the probe after he was already at Escom. What happened afterwards?
The problems at Escom border on abuse of power and corruption and citizens have a right to demand and know the answers.
After all, Escom has consistently raised electricity tariffs and consumers have been forced to dig deep into pockets to pay for corruption and abuse of office the power utility has suffered. It is not right.
And this story of ransacking of a state company is not limited to Escom. The situation is as bad in almost all state companies and parastatals.
There is total political interference and these companies are being used for partisanship at the expense of their survival and offering good services to Malawians: This too is very clear.
Simply put, Gondwe should not waste our hard-earned money putting together a taskforce to probe something we know already.
The only taskforce we need should be from the ACB to prosecute the criminality of those that have brought Escom down to its knees and caused immense suffering among Malawians.