Written By Vance Azu - The difficulties that majority of consumers of electricity, particularly those of us who subscribe to the Electricity Company of Ghana’s (ECG’s) source of power have had to contend with over the past five months or more came to a head this week after a spontaneous outburst by consumers who screamed with one voice that ‘enough is enough’.
This outburst really made a significant impact when the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) reacted by issuing a statement directing the ECG to suspend the use of its software for billing consumers.
Before this directive from the PURC, several concerns had been raised but each time the complaints came, some government as well as party communicators of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) reduced them to the usual NDC versus New Patriotic Party (NPP) type of politics and made it look as if the people were just crying wolf when actually there was no wolf.
However, after the tariff adjustments in December, last year, consumers expressed concern that they were being shortchanged by ECG, but these communicators made it sound like the consumers had no business complaining.
Last week, when the leadership of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) pleaded with the government to reduce the burden of electricity which was adversely affecting their businesses, I almost disagreed with them because their actions seemed to indicate that they were inward-looking, when actually the strangulation of ECG customers was overwhelming.
Almost all consumers of electricity were overstretched and it was becoming difficult for most of us to pay for the new tariffs.
Some of my friends always complained about the ‘killer tariff’. Previously I was buying GH¢50 worth of electricity, which lasted for a minimum of 21 days, however, since the beginning of the year, I have been buying that same amount of power and it lasts for eight days.
Other people claim they paid GH¢100 a month as post-paid consumption, but now pay GH¢500 a month.
Another lady complained that she had to pay GH¢600 a month, which is very outrageous because she was not at home for a greater part of the day.
All along I had assumed that consumers in the lower echelons of the social ladder were the worst hit but last Tuesday, a number of Members of Parliament, including the Majority Chief Whip, Alhaji Mubarak Muntaka Mohammed and Rachel Florence Appoh, the MP for Gomoa Central were seen on television complaining about the difficulties we have all been complaining about.
It is refreshing that the PURC has stepped in to ensure that the ECG reviews the situation in order to give some relief to electricity consumers.
What the ECG was not aware of is that as they tried to take more than they should have taken from consumers, there are a number of people who have resorted to illegal connections and are consuming electricity without paying anything because they are unable to pay for or buy the power for domestic use.
Since most Ghanaians expect the ECG to always remain in business and serve the people of this country with very affordable tariffs, we expect the power institution to embark on an exercise to bring the thieving consumers to book.
Sadly, some miscreants working with the ECG are those assisting the illegal consumers to carry out their nefarious activities; they must all be called to order.
Another issue the ECG must address as soon as practicable is the way they punish consumers who use the remote device to buy electricity for their prepaid meters.
For sometime now, when we go to the agents to buy power they only inform us that ECG is in the process of phasing out the remote device from the system.
As a result, consumers with such devices have to search for agents who still deal in the remote device before they get power, which is very frustrating.
Whenever one enquires about that sudden development without any form of education or information about the transition to the card system from the agents, one is always advised to contact the ECG for an explanation.
It is very disturbing because when the ECG was changing over from the old post-paid system of metering to the pre-paid one, its agents came round homes to install the new meters so why won’t they do same if they have decided to phase out the remote device?
I know the ECG is a company with a mission to provide quality, reliable and safe electricity services to support the socio-economic development of Ghana. I, therefore, expect the institution to live by that dictate and always ensure that customer satisfaction remains paramount in their service delivery.
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