Sun, May

  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

Written By Jojo Sam - There is confusion raging in the power sector of the economy following public outcry over high electricity billing of consumers. In the wake of the protestations, it was found out that a billing software being operated by the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) was to blame for the phantom bills that the company had been churning out to customers.


High bills

Many electricity consumers have for some months now been paying above the 59. 2 per cent increase in tariff that was granted to the ECG by the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) in December last year.

In fact, unable to contain their dissatisfaction with the turn of events, some customers were said to have stormed ECG offices across the country to vent their spleen on officials.

The situation affected post-paid consumers mostly. But could they be blamed for their anger, when, for example, charges were jumping by huge quantum, some by 300 per cent or more.

Even though the PURC, unable to contain the torrent of complaints, has ordered the ECG to suspend its new billing system until further notice, the company has not halted pitching the two at loggerheads.

As a matter of fact, quite a section of the public view the position taken by the PURC as akin to a mourner at a funeral crying more than the bereaved. Where has the PURC been all this while? The Commission, for some period now, is viewed as being in bed with the utility companies to fleece the public.


Resource deficit

For me, it is a pity how the ECG is being bastardised and made to look inefficient even by government. Because, truth be told, the company is doing the best it could in the face of obsolete equipment and huge debts owed it by consumers including its largest debtor, which is the government.

 It is true that the company has been resourced severally by governments over the period, but as the energy experts maintain, the business of providing electricity is a high expenditure enterprise.

That is why the ECG needs money in order for it not to look inefficient. If only its debtors would pay up, particularly government, the company may be able to lift its head above water.

 It is for this reason also that I believe the company, as part of efforts to maintain its viability, decided a couple of weeks ago to cut power supply to government ministries and agencies as a means to compel them to pay up. Unfortunately, the move was scuttled by government. So whither the way forward for ECG.

Workers unhappy

Meanwhile, the Public Utilities Workers Union has called the bluff of the PURC to withdraw its directive that the ECG should withdraw its billing system. The workers are mad because they claim the directive has led to physical abuse on some workers of the ECG, who went about their lawful duties of checking electricity meters, when, in fact, the software in contention is not the cause of the huge increases in bills.

In fact, the software; Commercial Management System (CMS) was procured for the ECG under the second phase of a project supervised by the Power Ministry. Is it not interesting, therefore, that the same Ministry of Power through the deputy minister for the sector would come out now to assure Ghanaians that the challenges that the ECG faces with the software will soon be rectified following an audit undertaken by a task force set up by the ministry.

The question then is, was there no trials made with the software before it was rolled out? It is being rumored that when the software was first brought in, staff of the ECG, who were trained in its use, were mainly national service personnel who had since left the establishment and, therefore, those in charge presently are not that conversant in its applications. If that is true, how could we not have envisaged the problems and found a way round it before now.

Well, at the moment the President has said that the ECG is going to be sold to a private entity in order to bring some efficiency into the system. But we all do know that a private business is after profits and the fear is that if the ECG should get into private hands, consumers would be paying even more than they are doing now.

At least workers of the company also think so and have said that a way out would be for the company to be made solvent through effective payment systems.

We watch to see what develops next. In my opinion, the bottom line is for the ECG, PURC and the government to sit down and plan such that the ECG becomes a viable venture so that the people, especially consumers, do not suffer unnecessarily.


 Sourced from graphic.com.gh

AcyMailing: Could not load compat file for J4.3.1This module can not work without the AcyMailing Component