ECG Must Stop This Naked Robbery
Not too long ago, Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) has dominated news reports and so much public discourse over Government’s decision to sell it to private operators. Reasons for and against the proposed sell have strongly been made to justify the sell. Whereas the government is bent on selling it due to the inefficiency and ineptitude that has surrounded it over the years, the workers of ECG are fighting tooth and nail to thwart government’s proposed sale. ECG workers have countered government’s reasons for the move insisting that government should wash its hands off the management of the company and things would just be fine. But I think the position taken by the staff of ECG is not one that is borne out genuine concern to do things right but to protect their source of daily bread. Even though I do not have any technical knowledge in energy, I just want to do some layman analysis of some development having to do with ECG prepaid credit.
I am one person who will support the sale of ECG anytime and any day. Just like many other Ghanaians, I think the kind of service they provide leaves much to be desired and therefore provided the sale will resolve all the issues we consumers have with the operations of ECG, then I am for it. Talk of applying for new service or separate metre; I guess you know the story better and I need not to tell you. People apply for new service or just separate metre and that will take more than four to six months.
A District Technical Officer (DTO) at one of ECG’s district offices here in Accra explained to me what he claimed has accounted for the delay in the supply of new service metres. He claimed the system they were previously using allowed for applicants to get new service metres supplied within 24hours until government introduced another system that pushed the whole process into reverse gear. He actually blamed government for many of the challenges confronting ECG. He also explained further that, one of the reasons for the delay in the supply of new services has to do with government’s directive that no meter should be installed without boxes. So there have been instances, according to him, where they have metres in stock but there are no boxes. It was unclear who is responsible for the supply of the boxes.
Having said the foregoing, let me do a little flashback. A couple of years ago, the PRO of Public Utility Regulation Commission (PURC) was all over the media making a strong case, which I personally considered frivolous, that consumers should pay higher tariffs if they wanted stable power supply. I asked myself if the PRO has been living in Ghana or is coming from the moon. Why should we be paying more for someone’s inefficiency? Unconvinced by her proposition, I quickly took to my Facebook page and did an article punching holes in her proposition pointing out clearly that the issue or solution to the problem is not about tariff. It simply has do to with inefficiency and bad management in respect of the company’s failure to collect monies it owe it by consumers including unnecessary government interferences. A few months later, we started experiencing intermittent power outages and this woman came on air again with another excuse that a lot of consumers were owing ECG so much money with emphasis on the fact that even though tariffs had gone up, it would take time for consumers to enjoy stable power supply in line with the new tariffs. Isn’t interesting?
I do know that before a consumer of power or any utility for that matter is charged for any service, it must first be approved by the PURC. The PURC in turn would publish the approved charges for the public. But there is a new development going on which I think (I stand to be corrected) the PURC has not communicated to the public (consumers of electricity). This has to do with what the ECG termed ‘service charge’ for those on prepaid metres. When you buy twenty Ghana cedis (Ghc20.00) worth of credit, the actual credit you get is less than the amount you have purchased. You can see in this receipt:
Prepaid, I think, simply means you use what you buy. For instance, if I buy MTN recharge card worth Ghc10.00 for example, I get exactly Ghc10.00 upon recharge and when it’s exhausted, I can’t make any more calls to attract any further charges. And MTN cannot prescribed another charge to be deducted from my next recharge unless of course I owe them. Likewise, when I buy ten Ghana cedis worth of ECG prepaid credit, I expect nothing less than the value amount and when my credit is exhausted, I expect my power to go off automatically as has always been the case. So what does this charge mean? If it were the case that I still enjoy power even after my credit has been exhausted, then obviously I know I am in arrears and therefore when I recharge, you are free to deduct whatever I owe. So I don’t understand this thing called ‘service charge’ by the ECG. What ‘service’, in the good name of God, is the ECG charging for? I tried to speak to one ECG prepaid credit vendor from whom I usually buy my prepaid credit to understand what is going on. The vendor explained that, ECG has introduced what they call ‘service charge’ such that any credit you buy at the beginning of every new month, some amount of money will be charged as service fee. He added that it’s applicable to both domestic and industrial consumers. And each of these categories are charged differently.
This development does not make sense at all. Why institutions like ECG do appear to be on the touchline looking for any available opportunity to perpetrate illegality against poor consumers of power? ECG should explain this to consumers. We need good explanation.