Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) Board Chairperson Fredrick Changaya has hailed President Dr Lazarus Chakwera for the support he renders to the corporation in its projects and service delivery.
Drizzle Josaya has worked for the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) for years, but, in his own admission, some issues pertaining to the corporation’s insurance policies and wayleave were all Greek to him.
Therefore, the Construction Supervisor for Karonga ESCOM office was a very attentive participant to a two-day Regional Legal and Technical Sensitisation Workshop held from August 1 2022 in Mzuzu.
At the end of the first day of the workshop held at Grand Palace Hotel, Josaya’s face beamed with joy for having been enlightened on issues of wayleave, safety and public liability, among other topics.
“I have learnt a lot about the challenges of wayleave encroachment in terms of how, why they happen and how I can limit them from happening. I was also not very conversant with issues of our insurance policy for ESCOM employees, but now I have understood them so well,” he said.
Another participant, Allan Nyasulu of Mzuzu ESCOM office, said he had understood more observance and handling of safety related issues.
“I have learnt a lot about the processes of carrying out investigations for fire accidents, public liability incidents, report writing and handling of claims regarding injuries,” said.
What was clear from the workshop was that issues of failure to enforce safety, security, negligence and lack of compliance with standards had seen ESCOM facing 705 active court cases hinging on public liability, personal injury and wayleave.
Such claims cost the power utility billions of kwacha with a single case sometimes attracting K30 million compensation .
Of the cases, according to ESCOM Acting Legal Services Manager, Tiwonge Kayira, 128 were for wayleave, 142 bordering on employment, 18 false imprisonment and character assassination, 70 contract breach, 122 public liability such as property damage and personal injury.
“We are being sued left, right and centre. After this workshop, we expect more compliance on your part to the legal framework. Our improved service delivery should translate to a reduction in court cases to minimize losses and save money for the corporation,” said Kayira, who represented Director of Legal and Company Secretary Sally Mtambo.
Wayleave Coordinator Precious Mpekasambo told the participants that Transmission was the worst hit in terms of wayleave encroachment cases with members of the public failing to adhere to the safety dimensions when constructing structures.
He said some members of the public build structures deliberately beneath powerlines and claim that the power lines came after their structure had been erected in order to claim compensation.
In other cases, Mpekasambo noted, ESCOM employees proceed with new connections without working in harmony with other departments such as Wayleave to certify wayleave compliance.Such cutting of corners, he said, costs the corporation money through re-routing exercises and failure to proceed with new connections.
“Our wayleave situation is like that of a patient in ICU…we are not speaking the same language,” he said.
In his presentation, ESCOM Assistant Safety Officer Maxwell Silla said supervisors had the responsibility to walk the talk on compliance to safety by leading periodic safety meetings, adhering to safety at the workplace and its equipment.
Silla said the procedure for reporting accidents was that of first contacting the Control Engineer on duty who then informs a responsible officer on duty then in turn, relevant Director.
ESCOM Assistant Claim Officer Victor Mhura also schooled the participants on topics of Workers Compensation Policy, Product Liability and Machinery Policy.
He said issues of incapacitation had become tricky with most cases not qualifying for the same, adding that an ESCOM employee can only be certified as incapacitated if unable to work for seven consecutive days due to an injury suffered in course of duty.
Mhura further bemoaned the tendency of some supervisors who sit on insurance claims for years with his section dealing with claims of accidents that happened in 2017 but submission has been made this year.
“Workers are not liable for compensation for injuries which incapacitates a worker for a period of less than seven days, deliberate self-injury, willful misconduct,” he said.
“An Accident Claim form has to be completed and accidents have to be reported within 14 days, otherwise insurance firms reject claims reported outside the 14-day window and ESCOM ends up paying because insurance companies can’t compensate for something that happened four years ago,” he said.
Mhura also noted that failure to report damages to transformers (50kva and above) within 14 days was costing ESCOM over K76 millions, adding that insurance pays an average of K800,000 for every damage to a transformer reported within the prescribed time.
“Where a damaged transformer has been repaired internally or through repair experts, the claim form must be accompanied with internal repair estimates. It is the responsibility of DEs to report issues of transformers within 14 days,” he said.
ESCOM Acting Northern Region Manager, George Matukuta, who was also among the workshop facilitators, challenged the participants to change their mindset and apply the knowledge gained, including how to compose an accident report on a right template.
“ESCOM is being taken to court left, right and centre for issues that we are at fault and that we are not at fault. Therefore, at the end of the workshop, let us gain knowledge and use this to minimise such issues,” he said.
Other facilitators for the workshop were Ministry of Lands Officer Willard Shora and retainer lawyer Victor Gondwe.
The second leg of the workshop took place in Lilongwe from August 4 to 5 2022 where retainer lawyer Mwayi Banda, Ministry of Lands’ senior valuation officers Patricia William and Dales Tewete joined the team of workshop facilitators.
Opening the second leg of the workshop on August 4 2022, ESCOM Central Region Manager McVitte Chiphwanya urged the 40 participants to the workshop held at Capital Hotel to make the most of the knowledge gained from the presentations.
“We are having many issues to do with wayleave encroachment. We are wasting our time re-routing instead of new connections because we found ourselves at the wrong places. The issues of safety are very important. Our industry requires that we should be safe and even the issue of fire accidents reporting is very important,” he said.
Taking his turn on behalf of Mtambo, Compliance Manager Yamikani Kambauwa urged the participants to be conversant with the legal framework under which ESCOM operates in.
“For us to improve the services that our customers enjoy, we need to be more aware of the mandate we have and also legal instruments that accompany that mandate,” he said.
The final day of the workshop saw Mtambo addressing the participants on Friday August 5 2022 when she urged them to play their part in protecting the revenue of the corporation by following the law to avoid lawsuits.
“People are taking advantage of ESCOM for every fire that happens. They are saying ESCOM is responsible, so we have to be careful and thorough when carrying out our investigations and report writing,” she said.
“We are grappling with cases arising from wayleave and safety and as an organization we are paying billions in compensation. This is the money we should have used for the advancement of ESCOM. So, let us take advantage of this workshop to come up with a model of report writing so that we should be coming up with something that is solid. Let us come up with measures for reducing accidents arising from the grid.”
The Legal Directorate organized the workshop, which pooled some 65 participants in Mzuzu, to enhance staff knowledge of regulatory framework, how to conduct investigations of incidents, public liability claims and wayleave issues.
Regional legal workshops enlighten ESCOM employees
Regional legal workshops enlighten ESCOM employees