Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Mark of seriousness as Pres. Chakwera takes swipe at best performing Egenco


A week ago, Minister of Finance Sosten Gwengwe awarded Egenco as the best-performing state-owned institution in the country, and a week ago, Egenco management was on cloud nine telling the country that they had restored Kapichiria hydropower thereby adding about 129 Mega Watts to the national grid. Electricity black-outs have stopped in the country and it is now running closer to two months since Malawians kissed goodbye to the torturous experience of load shedding.

This notwithstanding, President Lazarus Chakwera yesterday accused Electricity Generation Company (Egenco) management of lack of urgency when handling the said restoration of Kapichira Hydro Power Station in Chikwawa, which took a year and three months to complete.

The President said this in Blantyre when he presided over the opening of the 33rd Malawi International Trade Fair and the inauguration of the Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) laboratory and office complex.

He said: “I gave the management at Egenco a deadline of Christmas [2022] to have it restored in the hope that this would give them a sense of urgency to act with speed, but Christmas came and went and they failed to deliver.

“When this happened, I expected that the Egenco board that I personally appointed would take action against those managers at Egenco who failed to deliver, but it has now been five months since that deadline was missed and I have heard of no consequences for anyone at Egenco.”

Chakwera has since given the Egenco board until the end of June to do its duty of addressing the issues that lie at the root of Egenco’s dysfunctions.

He said: “It is not acceptable for a Presidential deadline to be missed as a result of poor management and the board to still have no action taken after six months.

“So, when I talk about slowness to act, the disease is everywhere and we must all do our part to make sure we are not part of that problem. And where we find the problem of slowness, it is almost always a leadership and management problem.”

Kapichira Hydro Power Station suffered extensive damage, particularly at its intake dam following the flooding of the Shire River due to Tropical Storm Ana in January 2022.

This forced Egenco to shut down the station, taking off 129 megawatts (MW) from the national grid. This led to prolonged electricity rationing in the country.

Ironically, when the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change visited the station last November, Egenco director of planning and development at the time, Labren Sondhi, indicated that the restoration project faced operational challenges which stalled the project for some days.

He said Egenco had done most of the project plan as well as the construction of the cofferdam, which was the main component of the project, but the works stalled as the financiers of the project, World Bank, temporarily stopped the project after establishing that designs were not in line with their expectations.

According to Sondhi, the Ministry of Energy came in with new designs for the dam contrary to what was approved by the World Bank, a move that prompted the Bret ton Woods institution to temporarily stop the project.

He said this and a 10-day break due to diesel scarcity led to the loss of time.  Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change chairperson Werani Chilenga then described the situation as unfortunate, saying that could have been avoided if the company had maintained the original plan.

“Egenco is not to blame,” he said.

The Malawi Government borrowed from the World Bank $60 million (about K61.8 billion) for the energy restoration project.

Egenco was expected to spend about K46 billion to rehabilitate the plant and K16.8 billion to go to Escom to buy transformers damaged by Tropical Storm Ana.

Meanwhile, Egenco has completed the restoration of Kapichira Hydro Power Station making more power available for consumers.

The full restoration means 378.95MW is available to Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom).

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