STEALING THE PEOPLES POWER: The President’s Assignment phase 1 of 5
..Ghana's Energy Thieves Uncovered, Our Man Goes Undercover As Worker At ECG. Broad Daylight Thievery Of The Ghanaian Tax Payer
Anas Aremeyaw Anas Reports ECG Headquarters Makola Accra
“We have enough power for our immediate needs from the Volta Dam and for the Aluminum smelter which VALCO is now constructing at Tema. But we are ready and prepared to supply power to our neighbors in Dahomey, the Ivory Coast and the Upper Volta. As far as I am concerned this project is not for Ghana alone. Indeed, I have already offered to share our power resources with our sister African states.”
That was the ambitious speech of the visionary leader of a young and promising country at the inauguration of the Akosombo Dam on January 22, 1966.The country has since proceeded to establish the ancillary Electricity Company of Ghana in a bid to provide itself with sustainable electric energy resource that would help the young nation launch itself as a regional industrial model.
Unfortunately, the Electricity Company of Ghana has in recent times gone down the disastrous path of most of Osagyefo's prized legacies. Indeed, the company has of late been in a troubled state, tottering its way into all sorts of turmoil and turbulence. It is also an open secret that some fishy deals litter the “corridors of power.” Having flung the doors wider open, the Weekend Crusading Guide can confirm that incompetence, corruption and downright thievery have been at the heart of the tragedy that has hit the ECG.
Our man went undercover as a worker in the ECG corridors, the debacle was a multi-faceted, systemic breakdown of processes and procedures. This endemic failure allows officials to indulge in financial impropriety and fill their pockets with money that should accrue into the state coffers. Uncollected electricity bill to the tune 470,0000000 (Four hundred million and seventy thousand Ghana cedis), over 300 million US dollars.
Beyond the corruption within the lower rungs of the ECG, there are bigger and murkier issues to unravel within the board room of the ailing state asset. So bad is the situation that unofficial ECG employees (popularly referred to as 'gorro boys') have always shown up at the corruption party and and even the crumbs have been a genial feast.
The situation becomes even more disheartening when considered against the backdrop of the frequent increases in electricity tariffs, not to talk of the epileptic supply, that the poor domestic consumer and small scale business have had to endure over the years. In other words, consumers have become helpless victims of the chaos and greed that reign at the ECG.
The fallout from President, John Evans Atta Mills' unannounced visit to the ECG back in April 2010, provoked the TIGER EYE special investigative team into action.
Led by ace investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, a team of investigators infiltrated the ECG, and unraveled massive corruption at different levels of the Company.
The team strategically pitched camp in four areas of the ECG system: Tema North, Tema South, Afienya, Kwabenya and Legon . The evidence we uncovered over the period is worth telling for the sake of God and country. God bless our homeland Ghana.
METER ACQUISITION "WAHALA"
Meters are the physical component of the electronic gadgets that record a customer's consumption of electrical power supply. But as we found out, acquiring it legally is the exception to the rule.
The meters were a hotspot and the center of corrupt practices; you may call it a goldmine for officials at the ECG.
who fleece frustrated customers before rendering any meter related service to them.
Our painstaking investigation caught officials on our hidden cameras stationed at vantage points within the ECG, plainly stealing state and company property to sell to customers.
Meters, which by all accounts are customized company material, are stolen and sold like tomatoes on the open market as are ECG cables some of which we purchased from an official of the Tema North branch.
The investigative team uncovered corrupt practices that started right at the point of submitting meter acquisition forms for registration. This turned out to be the lowest level of the bribery ladder where officials take “colas” ranging between GH¢ 5 and GH¢ 10.
A case in point is the Kwabneya Branch of ECG where the Leopard Team of TIGER EYE managed to secure a three phase meter at the cost of GH¢ 600 (six million old cedis) from an ECG official.
This however came after fierce negotiations with a top official who also asked us to deal with another official. Indeed there is competition for customers applying for meters. Officials across the ECG hardly take their bribes within the premises preferring to do their shady business outside.
The repository for stolen meters awaiting delivery to customers is rather curious. At the Kwabenya branch for example, stolen meters were kept either in washrooms or in the workers' canteen.
On one occasion when we went to take our meter, the following conversation ensued in Twi:
ECG OFFICIAL: Ok, so if you finish fixing the meter; you can't use it today, I guess you already have my number?
ECG OFFICIAL: Any time you can call me so that I come and connect it for you.
ECG OFFICIAL: Yeah, this is a three phase meter, what about the single phase meter we talked about?
TIGER: Well, they said they now want a three phase meter instead.
ECG OFFICIAL: Where is the facility located?
TIGER: Adenta area, WASS down.
ECG OFFICIAL: You mean on the main road this way, so it is in Kwabenya?
ECG OFFICIAL: As for the three phase, its 7 (meaning GH¢ 700)
TIGER: 7 million, please reduce it for us.
ECG OFFICIAL: No, No, No, No, No; you know I have already called my boss to tell him, you see how this connection was done fast.
TIGER: Can you please talk to your boss for us?
ECG OFFICIAL: Ei! Talk to my boss, you know yourself that if you go through due process it can take you as long as three months without getting the meters?
ECG estimators are officials dispatched to inspect the premises where power is to be supplied after a customer has registered his forms. Depending on how urgently a customer needs a meter fixed, he/she has the option of transporting the estimator, who usually demands a fee at the end of his job.
Failure to bribe them would mean that these estimators would either find some flimsy excuses for which your premises is not fit to be supplied with power or they may discard your forms and by so doing increase your frustration.
These estimators submit their reports to District Technical Officers (DTOs) who in turn prepare a quotation and forward it to be signed by the District Manager, at which stage a meter release has been authorized, subject to the payment of the quotation receipt.
Corruption in the form of taking bribes pertains at this level because some District Technical Officers (DTOs) were complicit in bribery situations whenever customers approached them for the mandated duty of signing quotations.
The extortion acumen of most DTOs extended as far as taking bribes called 'crouch' from contractors in exchange for expedited work on quotations that these contractors submit to them.
The District mangers would not take bribes for single or separate meters. Their s is the more lucrative domain of CT meter connections, transformers, district level ECG contract awards and massive cable theft deals.
Another striking feature we noticed at the Tema South branch which replicates itself across all the other branches is the accumulation of faulty meters which are left at the mercy of the weather; metres which are apparently beyond repairs.
Ironically, some of the “goro boys” , we found out, have a technical knowhow to repair these faulty meters, and at the least opportunity, they stole and repaired a few for sale to customers for huge sums of money.
TIGER EYE managed to secure a three- phase meter from an ECG official at the Legon branch at a cost of GH¢ 600.
We also paid GH¢ 300 at the Kwabenya branch for the purchase of a single phase meter, the selling official teasing us that if we chose the 'normal process', we would wait for eternity.
At the Legon branch of ECG, we were able to buy another three- phase meter from an official of the company; the following conversation ensued in the course of our negotiations:
TIGER: My brother he came yesterday, he told me, how much did you say?
ECG OFFICIAL: I say 500
TIGER: 500, new Ghana cedis or old?
ECG OFFICIAL: the new one.
TIGER: Aaah the new one
ECG OFFICIAL: You know something, I told him before collect the money I go come see the meter, but if it can be possible, you can come in the morning tomorrow so that I bring the meter, I collect the money then I give you the meter and then we go and install it.
ECG OFFICIAL: I don't want to collect the money and say go and come, because yesterday I promised you that the thing is ready, that's why the price I did it like that. This one ino be that you are going come, going come again.
TIGER: going come is not there.
ECG OFFICIAL: everything is ready, didn't I tell you yesterday?
TIGER: sure, sure
ECG OFFICIAL: that I don't know that you guys would come today, if it would be possible ….
TIGER: So the meter is in the house?
ECG OFFICIAL: eeh, yesterday I sent it to the house, I didn't bring it today
TIGER: oh OK, I see
ECG OFFICIAL: you say where is your house?
TIGER: it is at estates area there…
ECG OFFICIAL: have you placed the meter board?
TIGER: the meter board everything is ready
ECG OFFICIAL: so we just put the meter on, then we make the connection.
Meter tampering is an illegal process involving the calibration of a metre to record less than the actual units of power a customer consumes. Through this means, the customers manage to pay far less than they consume. In extreme cases, the customer can escape without paying a peseta to the ECG.
We realized that tampering was rampant within the ECG. Individuals, households and businesses were deep into the illegal act so prevalent among insiders and people outside of the ECG resulting in massive revenue loss to the company.
The commonest type of tampering we encountered was the meter by-pass involves the joining of two mains entering a meter with a wire; the consequence thereof is that the tampered meter reads far lower consumption.
But , alas,( as to we observed in our rounds with roving ECG officials – faults and loss control unit staff), the “benevolent” crew couldn't care less ! They often preferred taking bribes and allowing the crime to persist.
We stumbled on the story of a house with an adjoining sachet water company that had tampered with their meters. Ordinarily the ECG officer who comes across such a situation must put the meter off and issue the owner of the meter with a summons to appear at a particular room of a branch to answer charges.
This particular official took off the meter but turned round to negotiate a deal with the owners of the facility. Initially imposing a “fine” GH C 5000, the official ended up pocketing GH C 1000.
There is a second more sinister tampering type is; this involves acquiring a meter that isn't registered in the ECG system, but with the connivance of officials within the ECG.
The third is tariff tampering. Here, individuals and businesses collude with officials of ECG at the meter labs – where meters are programmed – to manipulate tariff settings on meters, so that their meters would record lower rates of electrical consumption.
This invariably ensures that a user does not pay what is expected. This kind of tampering can hardly ever be done without big guns within the ECG, given the highly officials within the ECG officials within the ECG officials within the ECG officials within the ECG officials within the ECG computerized nature of prepaid meters.
The fourth involves multitask tampering. This is particular of post-paid users; it involves illegal tampering of meters. For prepaid users this takes the form of manufacturing fake receipts with the help of ECG officials to create the impression that they (customers) have already purchased an amount of prepaid credits. However, whenever they hear of monitoring teams going to a particular location, they rush in to normalize the meters' operation.
Admittedly, there may be other forms of tampering that we may not have mentioned here, the bottom line was that, pre paid meters were being tampered with at grave cost to the ECG and for that matter the nation.
Certainly mother Ghana stands in the past and presently as the biggest loser in the general scheme of events, and that grave loss in the future is what we so passionately strive to curtail, so help us God.
THE ECG METER MARKET
The 'ECG market' as we choose to call it was a bustling place for buying and selling activities. We captured officials busily stealing materials with careless abandon.
We discovered that some officials in the ECG were ready to sell everything from ECG meters, cables and transformers at unbelievably exorbitant prices to customers and build up big their pockets from materials that government uses millions of US dollars to import.
All this goes on whilst the management of various branches sit unconcerned or at almost at their wits end, leaving the business of the meters to the unscrupulous staff and their allies; the 'Gurro Boys' who set up office at the yards of almost all of the ECG branches.
Employees have teamed up with gorro boys to fleece not only the state but to take as much money as they can from the frustrated home and business owner in search of electricity to light their homes and power their businesses.
In a case of worsening the customer's plight of having to wait for years without getting power connected to a facility, ECG officials and their gorro boys collude to quote huge sums of money for separate and single meters.
These prices could be as high as seven or eight times the official price a customer would ordinarily pay for connection unto the national grid.
Official meter prices at most ECG branches hovers between GH 100 cedis to 150 cedis for a single phase separate meter. Yet, for frustratingly cumbersome meters procedures at most ECG offices; some ECG officials in cahoots with gorro boys take monies as high as 350 cedis to 500 for single meters and 600 - 1200 cedis for three phase meters. Why should people dish out a fortune just for electrical power?
Stay tuned for phase 2 where we unveil the good the bad and the ugly….