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27.06.2003 General News

Wereko-Brobby defends himself

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The Chief Executive of the Volta River Authority, Dr Charle Wereko-Broby on Thursday defended himself of several allegations made against him by workers of the Authority and said what happens next is the prerogative of President John Kufuor. In a 23-page statement titled: Volta River Authority: What I met and What I did - My tenure as Chief Executive of Volta River Authority traced his stay in the VRA from the Board Chairman, the problems he met, reaction to changes he made, solutions, projects he undertook and their results. "When I joined the VRA 22 months ago," he wrote, "I made it very clear that I was not in for the long haul. "I saw my tenure as short, eventful and lasting for five years at the most. Clearly, I do not believe that the challenge given me has been completely fulfilled. "However, I took a decision 15 years ago to return to Ghana to serve and assist in our nation's development. I do not intend to abandon that commitment now or in the future."

Giving details, he said within a space of four months after his appointment as Chief Executive on 23 August 2001, the public interest in VRA's affairs began to focus on the substance of his work with the Authority, especially the relevance and impact of substantial changes that were being introduced into the Authority's operations.

"In a sense, the reaction of staff to the changes being made by what they perceived to be an outsider Chief Executive could be understood, even if the substance of the changes themselves was in the right direction.

"This reaction of the staff to the fundamental changes being made in the Authority was crystallised in the form of a growing spate of unprecedented leakage of official VRA documentation to the public, especially the media and the National Security Agencies.

Dr Wereko-Brobby said he arrived at VRA at the time when the Authority was in the throes of a very deep and challenging period of transition in all of its operations.

"An Institution whose business has been built on production of power from the Akosombo hydro dam now had to face the reality of a significant and growing injection of thermal power into its operations."

He said the onset of thermal generation which costs about 3 to 4 times the cost to produce the traditional hydro power had began to compound and impact significantly on the finances of the Authority and it began to make losses due to the failure of the Authority coupled with the reluctance of Government, to ensure that the Authority was able to recover the full cost of its operations from increment in its tariffs.

"At the time that I took office, the VRA was technically a bankrupt organisation. The cumulative losses from the years 1997 to 2000 amounted to 1,430.4 billion cedis and a projected loss for the year 2001 was estimated at 1,644 billion cedis."

Dr Wereko-Brobby said although VRA operations covered the length and breadth of the country with 41 substations dotted around the country, the level of logistical support that he found at the Authority was woefully inadequate, extremely old and very unreliable.

There was "a very old vehicular fleet which had not been renewed for about a decade." Essential maintenance work, especially on the transmission lines, had been reduced to emergency resolution instead of regular preventive work.

Communication systems were largely obsolete; computers and other information and communication technical equipment were very inadequate.

Dr Wereko-Brobby said he also encountered a situation where staff morale was extremely low because of the long-standing failure to resolve some of the most critical matters of staff welfare.

"Whilst staff morale was low and could, therefore, be expected to have a negative impact on productivity and control of the Authority's resources, I found a situation in the Authority which showed a fundamental weakness in productivity and growing laxity in the application and dedication of many of the staff to their work."

Dr Wereko-Brobby said among the principal areas of deficiency were abuse of the use of the Staff Provident Fund, inordinately high overtime claims, misuse of Authority's vehicles, abuse of procedures on the use of Authority's funds, especially claims for allowances and other financial controls, failure to retire imprest accounts for both domestic and foreign operations and failure to implement the recommendation of audits carried out into various operations of the Authority.

The others were a laxity in the enforcement of disciplinary procedures in the Authority the abuse of the provisions of the leave of absence and the general conditions for the support of staff development and training especially, the breach of bonds by staff trained at the Authority's expense and the absence of any form of procedures for measuring productivity of staff at various levels and accounting for the work that they did for the Authority.

On his management style, Dr Wereko Brobby said the law was that, every decision was reposed in the person of the Chief Executive.

"This state of affairs produced a situation of a very remote 'venerable' Chief Executive' who oversaw the activities of the Authority largely from the hallowed corridors of the 10th floor of the Authority's Head Office."

On technical solutions, he put into effect a programme to repair and restore the generating capacity at the Takoradi Power Company to its full operation in the shortest possible time.

"Immediate and urgent action was taken to improve the reliability of the power supply by the acquisition and installation of essential maintenance equipment and operational changes to the management of the transmission system.

"These changes led to the restoration of the reliability of the system, which translated into a substantial improvement in the quality of power supplied to all consumers.

"The success of this measure is demonstrated by the fact that most Ghanaians now have nearly forgotten about the severe problems that they had with their basic domestic equipment.

"Consistent with the policy to maintain the country's power supply, rather than revert to the traditional practice of systematic and sustained load shedding, the Authority decided to fill the gap between the demand by its customers and the available generating capacity by leasing an Emergency Power Plant (EPP).

"The added objective of leasing the plant was to also assist in the management of the Lake by using the plant to produce power that would otherwise have come from the Lake.

Dr Wereko Brobby said unfortunately, whilst the technical merits for the acquisition of the EPP (which later on came to be known as the Strategic Reserve Plant (SRP)), were sound and indeed essential for the success of the continuous power supply, the implementation of the project had been beset by a number of serious technical, operational and contractual problems.

"The result is that the immediate objectives of the Plant have not been successfully met, and a number of serious financial and technical issues remain to be resolved.

"However, the short to medium term usefulness of the Plant to meeting Ghana's power needs on a reliable basis whilst nursing the Volta Lake back to normal health, continue to be legitimate and desirable."

On financial solutions, Dr Wereko-Brobby said in November 2001, the Authority prepared and presented a Financial Rescue Plan for the consideration of President Kufuor and the Government.

He said the proposals contained the plan titled "Restoring the Financial Health of the Volta River Authority: Issues and Options" were broadly accepted by the Government and had formed the backbone of actions being taken to address the Authority's financial difficulties.

Dr Wereko-Brobby said the Authority had made successful representations to the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) with the result that there have been two major increases in tariffs in August 2002 and March 2003.

"Substantial progress has been made to restore the Authority's financial credibility with its two major power suppliers, CIE and CMS/TICO. The arrears of $55.6m and $13.2, which were owed to CIE and TICO at the time that I assumed office, were cleared in total by July and December 2002, respectively.

"Unfortunately, the problems with our own generating capacity at Akosombo and Takoradi have resulted in the accumulation of more debts to our power suppliers.

"Arrangements have been made with Barclays Bank to pay off $10m of the TICO debt currently about $19 m. Discussions are also ongoing for a syndicate of Banks to pay off a substantial portion of the CIE debt currently amounting to $32m."

The first phase of a three-year programme to provide fresh vehicles entailed the procurement of 166 vehicles, mainly cross country and double cabin pickups and 75 motor bicycles for the operations of the Authority.

"Vehicles were also procured for management staff covering Directors and Senior Managers, who needed vehicles to carry out essential operations.

"It is therefore a matter of surprise that so much fuss has been made by the Chief Executive's Volvo saloon car, which cost $38,000, when the official vehicle, a BMW top range saloon, for my immediate predecessor cost the Authority $95,000.

"The extent of public interest in VRA's acquisition of vehicles was orchestrated by a section of the staff of the Authority. One, therefore, is entitled to beg the question as to why no similar fuss was made when my predecessor's car cost at least two and a half times more than mine and was purchased four years earlier than mine."

Dr Wereko-Brobby said he also took steps on staff promotions and increments, outstanding vacation leave, staff improvement training initiative, education grant and loan, contract and casual workers, provision of telephone facilities, construction of a JSS Complex at Akuse, housing and transportation allowances and a welfare bus.

He said one would wonder why workers wanted him to leave adding the answer laid in measures he put into place to improve the productivity of work in the Authority and to tighten operational control and efficiency.

These included change of working hours from 35 hours to 40 hours a week, measures on the provident fund, curbing excessive overtime, checking of abuse of vehicles and mismanagement of fuel and misuse of telephones, introduction of greater transparency in procurement and financial discipline and enforcement of disciplinary procedure.

He said he accepted the call by President Kufuor to put my professional expertise to use at the VRA adding: Even though I have dabbled in politics, I considered the challenge as an opportunity to put my expertise and experience to the service of my nation.

"Unfortunately and despite my expressly stated declaration that I have gone on political holiday, it has been difficult for people to separate my work of the last two years from the every day politics of the country.

"This is rather unfortunate as judgement of the merits or otherwise of my tenure as Chief Executive of VRA has more often than not been seen from a political rather than a technical perspective."

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