Heads must roll I have been wanting to write this article for at least two months, but have been delayed a little by the technical problems of launching the website. We must all thank Kane Shenton for doing all the hard work. Several people in Choma will be aware that I stormed out of a meeting last year that I thought had been called to discuss the ZESCO Power Factor Surcharge. In fact it was to challenge the 100% Tariff increases that had just been approved by the ERB. I was not the ONLY voice pointing out that these Tariff increases were justified (all they do is keep pace with the losing value of the Kwacha) and essential if this country is going to benefit from our hydro (and solar) potential. However, I was the only person who walked out in anger – a tantrum of which I am not proud. Readers will thus understand my chagrin when it became obvious that ZESCO, when they finally DID get their much needed Tariff increase, decided to spend a significant amount of it on large billboards announcing not only the location of all their offices, but also the location of all (or most) of their 33kV transformers. (The most wasteful example of this – that I know of – is a billboard on the Silverlands Ranch outside Zimba, some 16kms off the main road. This billboard announces to the workers at Silverlands that they have a 33kV transformer at their workshop!) These (transformer) billboards serve absolutely NO function. Billboards are aimed at motorists, and the only motorists who might be interested in where these transformers are of the nefarious sort (who might be planning to steal the oil and/or copper from them). One hopes that all the ZESCO engineers already KNOW where the transformers are! Furthermore, these billboards are not an insignificant cost. I doubt that one can install them for less than about $3,000 per billboard, and there must be at least 300 in the whole country – so perhaps $900,000. Unfortunately, they ALMOST commit ZESCO to a recurrent maintenance cost. One of them (near Tara in the Southern Province) has already been damaged by a passing truck and they will eventually look old and worn, in need of upgrading. So they could easily require recurrent maintenance expenditure. Had ZESCO really been committed to improving the provision of electricity in this country, that money could have been spent on finalizing the Power Factor problem; or it could have been spent on smarter (self-reading) meters; an Internet based billing system – or any number of much needed improvements. The fact that someone in ZESCO could take the decision to spend it on these billboards is proof that that person knew that the ERB was asleep at the wheel. If the ERB were REALLY carrying out its mandate, nobody in ZESCO would dare waste money in this way. So, WHY did ZESCO do it? A guiding principle in these matters is to “Follow the Money”. Those billboards were not manufactured by ZESCO, so ZESCO must have ordered them from a billboard manufacturing company; which one? Then the ERB ought to investigate what possible relationship exists between that manufacturing company and the ZESCO executive that ordered them? I believe the ERB should then report to the public what they have found, and, as this article is titled:

Heads must roll.
Bruce Danckwerts venture@zamtel.zm