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27.08.2004 General News

Corruption at ECG: Staff implicated

By Chronicle

The Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) could be incurring huge losses due to illegal connections and the bypassing of meters by customers sometimes involving the Company's own staff, The Chronicle has learnt. The losses have prompted the setting up of a Loss Control Unit (LCU) to investigate all alleged illegal electricity connections and the culprits brought to justice.

According to a document that The Chronicle stumbled upon, the LCD had recommended to the management to set up an independent investigative team to look into an allegation that a staff, Mr. Lucas Kumi, had colluded with the management of a hotel in Accra to illegally revise a bill for illegally bypassing an ECG meter.

The Penwood hotel had allegedly been bypassing ECG meter and had consumed electricity to the tune of over ¢71 million but this amount, according to the document was reduced to ¢12.5 by Mr. Kumi a year later with the excuse that that he had prepared a wrong bill.

The LCU said it was amazed about the margin of error that Mr. Kumi presented to the it which was 82.41%, representing about ¢58.8 which is to be written off.

In the opinion of the LCU the original bill of ¢71,394,418.45 should stand and the hotel be made to settle all the previous bills.

Meanwhile the unit recommended that ECG should terminate supply to the hotel indefinitely and stop doing business with it until the bill was fully settled.

“The company is not obliged to restore power to customers who steal power even if they pay assessments issued to them,” the document quoted the unit as saying.

The document said on Monday, May 3, 2004 the LCU received a telephone call from an anonymous person that a group of ECG staff had negotiated and extorted an unspecified amount of money from the proprietor of the hotel for an illegal power used by the hotel.

An LCU team led by Mr. Charles Obeng was sent to the hotel to ascertain the true picture.

The document said the LCU discovered that the manager showed the team a bill to the tune ¢71,394,418.45 issued to the hotel by Mr. Lucas Kumi as a result of the illegal meter bypass and tampering. Further investigation was held up because Mr. Kumi allegedly dealt directly with the proprietor of the hotel who had traveled outside the country at the time of the team's visit.

The bill was issued on June 5, 2003 and up till May 3, 2004 when the LCU visited the hotel the manager could not provide any evidence of payment.

The manager later called to inform the team that he had contacted Mr. Kumi who had indicated that he had a receipt of payment made by the hotel, which he would come and show to the unit.

Mr. Kumi confirmed having the receipt with him and promised to show it to the team on the following Monday but he did not turn up.

A report was then sent to the Regional Commercial Manager (RCM) and the Regional Director (RD) on what was going on at the hotel and power supply to the hotel was consequently disconnected.

However, on May 21,2004 Mr. Kumi finally turned up with a memo to the RD and the RCM attached with a bill of ¢12,557,877.30 the hotel.

He claimed in the memo that the bill was the revised one, which replaced the earlier bill of ¢71,394,4l8.45 and that what he had prepared one year earlier was wrong.

Mr. Kumi again explained in the memorandum that he took total inventory and billed installed capacity to arrive at the final figure.

But according to LCU, bills calculated to customers were always based on gadgets that consumed power illegally.

It said what was normally done was to take account of gadgets being bypassed and find out their consumption capacities. This was then multiplied by the average time of usage for a minimum period of six months.

In the case of the hotel, Mr. Kumi had stated in his memo that the people connected power behind the meter after they had been duly disconnected for nonpayment of bills. “This means that none of the gadgets was passing through the meter. It is therefore surprising as to why Mr. Kumi should reduce the bill so drastically as he has done,” the LCU said Again there was evidence on the customer's statement of account that the hotel was still owing some amount to the ECG yet it was enjoying power through a CT prepaid meter which had replaced the previous three single phase meters in the premises.

Mr. Kumi also sited unnecessary litigations and the customer's claim that it was a low season for hotels as part of the reasons why he revised the bill, but according to the document, he knew that the customer's letter petitioning the monitoring unit for review should not be the only reason to lead him to revision of the bill at as much as 82.41% downwards.

The investigation team noted that the customer's reasons were untenable because if he knew of the high and low seasons of hotel business he should have allowed his consumption to go through the meter.

According to the team, Mr. Kumi, for all intents and purposes, had proved to be serious with his work and for him to delay action on an issue of such magnitude for a whole year only on an excuse that the customer did not chase him for the review of the bill and only came back to do what he had done after the LCU had been involved left much to be desired.

“I want to place on record that the customer involved is not a first time offender. Indeed the LCU arrested him for similar offence for which they have not finished payment of the bill issued to them.”

Secondly, the unit said Mr. Kumi had mounted an incessant pressure on the team to restore power to the hotel to the extent that was baffling.

The LCU Coordinator, Mr. Charles Obeng declined to comment on the issues raised in the document when The Chronicle contacted him. However, Mr. Kumi could not be reached for his reaction.

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