By Chikondi Lungu
President Peter Mutharika has been asked to stop his party and government officials from stepping on Escom’s operations, for the electricity supplier to provide its services efficiently.
Former Minister of Energy and Mining Ibrahim Matola has challenged Mutharika that unless he stops his men from meddling with Escom’s operations, electricity problems in the country will remain on the death pit.
According to Matola, DPP politicians are being handed Escom contracts without merit and they end up supplying materials that are of poor quality.
“I have been Minister of Energy before. I know what happens. Politicians use the name of the President or State House to demand contracts from Escom. Out of fear, management would manipulate tender documents to enable such politicians get the contracts,” said Matola.
He added: “What is happening at Escom now is that there is State House war. Politicians and others are scrambling for contracts in the name of the President or State House. The President should stop that war if Escom is to be efficient in its work. Such people supply wrong materials or of poor quality. Blackouts cannot end with that kind of life at Escom.”
Reacting to Matola’s sentiments, State House has asked the former minister to play good citizen and report to the right authority for an investigation.
In his capacity Presidential Press Secretary Mgeme Kalilani said Mutharika has always told statutory corporations to work independently without being influenced by politicians.
“President Mutharika is calling upon Escom and all statutory corporations to be professional when awarding contracts. The President has repeatedly said that anybody claiming to be sent by him or the State House to ask for or do business anywhere is lying.
The former Peoples Party minister justified his case by citing one recent procurement tender for the supply and delivery of prepaid meters and meter boxes with a contract value of K11 billion.
According to him the tender was restricted, had no qualification criteria, had no bid security and did not indicate conditions of financial capacity requirement and previous experience and performance record.
The date of the opening of the tender was November 1 2016 and the first lot is to supply 190 000 pieces while 115 000 in the second lot.
Matola also said there was another tender that was open at first but was later made restricted. This was a K3.7 billion tender for the procurement of LED lamps.
He alleged that these moves are made to appease politicians such that Escom is forced to manipulate some tender documents to suit the politicians who have no capacity to handle such contracts.
However, Escom Board Chairperson Jean Mathanga could not comment on the matter.
Deputy Director of Public Procurement Edward Jeke said he was aware of the tenders in question but was sceptical about the veracity of Matola’s claims.
“While I am not particularly obliged to know the source of your information, my suspicion is that the source might not have led you to the correct source of the details you are asking. The information is found in the tender’s bidding document that the procuring entity prepares and issues to the prospective bidders,” he said.
As the country is on verge of electricity blackouts, the electricity supplier is coming under increasing fire for failing to manage the situation and the government has been particularly criticised for failing to rise above the challenge and stop the politicisation of operations at ESCOM.