Maputo — The major domestic debtors to Mozambique's publicly-owned electricity company, EDM, are state bodies, according to EDM spokesperson Luis Amado, cited by Monday's issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”.
The total amount of sales of electricity invoiced every month is about 1.5 billion meticais (25 million US dollars). But around ten per cent of this - 150 million meticais - goes unpaid every month.
Most of the unpaid bills are owed by what Amado called “sensitive” state institutions. These bodies can run up debts because, unlike most households, they are not yet on the pre-paid system known as “credelec”.
Anybody who is on credelec has an electricity meter in their home or office through which they can control how much electricity they use. When they are running low, they just buy more and input a code into the meter. If the meter runs out, the electricity is automatically cut off. No electricity bills at all are involved in this system.
But most state bodies are not on Credelec. They receive monthly bills and in many cases do not pay them. Disconnecting them is not automatic, but a decision taken by EDM.
One such decision recently caused an uproar, when the Buzi irrigation scheme, in the central province of Sofala, suddenly lost its power. Amado confirmed that EDM had cut the power because the irrigation scheme had run up a debt of about 200,000 meticais.
The disconnection worked wonders. The 300 farmers who use the irrigation system collected the money to pay off the debt. When EDM received the money, it reconnected the Buzi system to the grid.
Some public institutions - such as hospitals and schools - are difficult to disconnect for ethical reasons.
Amado urged EDM clients to pay their bills on time and avoid accumulating debts that would eventually force the company to switch them off.
In the meantime, EDM is continuing to negotiate with the government for the installation of credelec meters in all state institutions. This would make institutions responsible for managing the power they use - it might end the spectacle of lights blazing in public institutions throughout the night. But Amado admitted that EDM faces difficulties in acquiring adequate pre-payment meters for medium voltage, which is the voltage for the power used by most public institutions.