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26.11.2003 Regional News

NPP top gun collecting electricity bills?

By Chronicle
NPP top gun collecting electricity bills?
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- Residents raise concern, demand probe Takoradi -- A group calling itself Concerned Citizens Association of Prestea (CCAP) has petitioned the Ministry of Energy to order immediate investigations into the circumstances that led to the chairman of the New Patriotic Party in Prestea Huni Valley constituency, Kojo Ibrahim Amoako, arrogating to himself the power of collecting electricity bills in the Prestea township.

According to the group, Kojo Ibrahim, in collaboration with the Prestea Urban Coucil, has been moving from house to house, collecting electricity bills from the residents at the end of each month and issuing them with a receipt printed in the name of Prestea Electrification Project, even though there is no ongoing electrification project at Prestea.

Mr. Francis Adu Blay Koffie, the acting secretary of the association, told The Chronicle that most of the receipts issued by the Urban Council for the collection of the bills had the personal stamp of the NPP chairman at the back of them, thus fuelling the suspicion about the motive behind the collection of the bill by the party chairman.

A source contacted at the Wassa West District Assembly to find out whether the Urban Council has the power to collect electricity bills or not, as the Prestea one is doing, declined to comment.

The source instead directed the reporter to contact the Member of Parliament for the area, Hon. Albert Obbin. The latter could however not be reached on his cell phone after several attempts.

Blay Koffie told The Chronicle that so far as the association was concerned, it is the Volta River Authority (VRA) and the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) that have the power to collect electricity bills from consumers since it is they that produce and sell power in the country.

They therefore want the Ministry of Energy to dig and find out the one who authorised the NPP chairman and the Urban Council to collect the bills from the residents and issue them with their own receipts that had nothing to do with either the VRA or the ECG.

The association also called on the ministry to find out those who were signatories to the accounts into which the money collected is paid and the account number itself.

Secretary, Blay Koffie told this reporter that, until recently, power consumed by the people of Prestea was being paid for by the defunct Prestea Gold Resources (PGR).

The company, after paying the bills to the VRA, would send its personnel to the various houses to collect the bill back.

The amount paid by each household at the time was based on the items they were using.

Blay Koffie further told The Chronicle that when the management of Bogoso Gold Limited (BGL) took over the management of the company, they discontinued the practice of paying the bills on behalf of the residents and later recoup it from them.

The association alleged that, on March 24, this year, the MP for the area, Hon. Albert Obbin, told a forum at Prestea that he had discussed the electricity issue with the President and had directed that Prestea people should not pay for any power they consumed.

Blay Koffie continued that, prior to this announcement, the NPP constituency chairman had collected ¢2,000 each from the residents as registration fee for the supply of meters to residents to enable the ECG monitor their power consumption.

He said up to date, the meters have not been supplied. The money too has not been refunded.

Illuminating on more, he said as they were waiting for what the VRA, who supplied the power to them would say, the NPP chairman and the Urban Council arrogated to themselves the power of collecting the bills from the residents and have, for the past six months, been moving from one house to the other at the end of each month, for the money.

He said the people of Prestea were not against the payment of bills. Their concern was whether the party chairman had the right to collect the bills at the time he had not produced the power he was billing them for. To the association, the collection of the bills should have been the sole responsibility of either the VRA or the ECG.

All attempts to contact the VRA to explain why they had been producing power but allowed individuals to collect the bills and whether the bills reflected in their accounts or not, proved futile.

Mr. Kojo Ibrahim, the NPP chairman, confirmed to The Chronicle when he was contacted on phone from Prestea that, he, with the Urban Council, had been collecting the bills and paying them into a special accounts they had opened at the Ghana Commercial Bank, Prestea.

He narrated further that, the association also sent a copy of their petition to the Ministry of Energy in Accra, who summoned them to explain things to them, which they did.

Adding, he related that they met the director of power and some VRA officials in Accra and after they had explained the circumstances that led to their collection of the bills, their decision was accepted and they were even congratulated on that.

Kojo Ibrahim further told The Chronicle that they had submitted the account of all monies they had collected, to the ministry in Accra and therefore directed this reporter to contact Accra for information on the bills they had collected so far.

According to the party chairman, they took the decision to save money for the government because “the Prestea people were consuming the power without paying for it.”

He said last month alone, they were able to collect about ¢102 million for the government.

When The Chronicle contacted the ECG office in Takoradi, the Public Relations Officer, Mr. Adjei Larbi, told this reporter that they were not involved in the collection of the bills at Prestea.

He however said a proposal to that effect had been made to them but they were still studying it before making any public statement.

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