Utility Providers Flex Muscles …But Public Moves Against Any Tariff Increases
From Issah Alhassan, Kumasi
A CROSS section of the general public in the Ashanti Region have moved against any attempt by the four main utility providers in the country to justify increases in tariffs as a means of ensuring efficiency in services.
Representatives of the country's main utility providers, namely the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), the Volta River Authority (VRA), the National Grid Company (GRIDCO) and the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) made tireless but unsuccessful efforts at winning the hearts of a cross section of people, at a public forum organized by the Public Utility Regulatory Commission (PURC).
The forum was aimed at providing the platform for the service providers to engage the public on their activities, explain the nature of their services and to answers questions and suggestions from them.
As expected, the leading electricity providers, ECG, received the chunk of criticisms, ranging from poor billing, poor metering, irregular supply of power and the intermittent light outs, which has become known as 'Dumso Dumso.'
Participants, who were drawn from various government institutions, civil society and non-governmental organizations, unanimously opposed any move by the service providers to justify increases as the main solution to ensuring quality services for their consumers.
Enraged by the recent poor service delivery by the Electricity Company of Ghana in recent times, the participants fired barrage of questions at the Director of Customer Services of the company, Dr. N.K Smart-Yeboah, putting him under hours of intense pressure.
The participants, who filled the Prempeh Asssembly Hall to its capacity, expressed various levels of their frustrations at the poor performance of the nation's leading energy provider, cautioning that any attempt to increase tariffs would be met with fierce resistance.
Not even several justifications put forward by the ECG Director of Customer Services that the company is also going through difficult moments as a result of irregular supply of power from the VRA and other suppliers would convince them to soften their stance.
The Head of Communications at the Volta River Authority (VRA) Mr. Samuel Fletcher, who was the first to deliver his address, took the participants through a number of challenges facing the company which he said, had culminated in the recent irregular supply of power to its main clients the ECG.
He noted that the damage, which occurred at the West African Gas Pipeline somewhere last year, had been the main cause of the problems associated with power supply and that once the damage is completely repaired and the capacity of other plants increased in the next two months, the country would once again experience regular supply of electricity.
Mr. Fletcher explained that currently the VRA was operating at a loss as a result of buying diesel on daily basis to fuel the Aboadzi thermal plant in the absence of the gas pipeline supplied from neighbouring Nigeria.
He disclosed that the company spends $3 million a day to purchase diesel to fuel the plant, a situation which he noted, has left the company in serious financial crisis since last year August.
“Since August last year the VRA has spent about 525 milion dollars on the Aboadzi Thermal Plant alone, and this figure will hit almost 1.1 billion dollars in 2013, if the company continues to operate under the current tariffs,” he emphasized.
He was, however, hopeful that with the completion of the Bui Dam, which is expected to come into full operation between April to May this year, coupled with Asogli Songo Plant, the 120 capacity thermal plant being constructed by the company at Takoradi amongst others, the challenges facing energy supply would be significantly reduced.
Mr. Fletcher, therefore, stressed the need for the public to bear with the service providers as they work around the clock to get the solutions to the numerous problems.
On his part, Dr. Smart-Yeboah at the ECG admitted the problem of irregular supply of power from the company as a result of the implementation of the Load Shedding but said it was the only way to ensure equity in the provision of power to the numerous customers across the country.
He said plans were far afoot through collaboration with the VRA and other alternate sources of power generations which were underway, to make sure most of the problems were rectified.
Dr. Smart-Yeboah was, however, honest that customers would have to endure the pain of irregular power supply a little longer until all the plans put forward become operational.
He further disclosed that the ECG would soon take delivery of over 250,000 pre-paid metres for distribution to households and to meet the growing demand for the product.
Other services providers such as GRIDCO and Ghana Water Company Limited also enumerated challenges and plans put in place to address them.