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16.04.2005 General News

USAID assists PURC to improve on regulatory practices

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Accra, April 16, GNA - The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded a 1.6 billion cedis grant to the Public Utilities and Regulatory Commission (PURC) to support its regulatory practices for the use of electricity, water and natural gas. The grant will be used to support the PURC's partnership with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) an association of regulatory bodies from all the 50 American States. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the partnership was signed in Accra on Friday.

Mr Jason Czyz, NARUC Deputy Director of International Programmes, Mr Clarence Rogers Jnr, Commissioner of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) of Ohio and Dr Kwame Pianim Chairman of the PURC jointly signed for their respective organisations.

Under the MOU there would be executive and personnel exchanges, seminars and workshops, with the partners sharing experiences and best practices as Ghana continues to implement fair and independent regulations.

This will help to ensure an efficient, transparent and stable functioning of electricity, water and natural gas markets as well as protect the interest of consumers and investors.

The partnership allows Ghanaian and American regulators the chance to learn new techniques and methodologies and gain an understanding of the international regulatory environment.

Mr Kwadwo Okyere Mpiani, Minister of Presidential Affairs who witnessed the signing ceremony said the establishment of the PURC and other regulatory bodies were a cognitive response of the Government towards meeting the challenges of providing essential social and economic infrastructure in the light of globalisation, current world industry trends as well as an important element of good governance. He said the Government had been supportive of the development of the PURC as an independent body and adequately resourced to undertake the onerous duties of utility regulation.

Mr Mpiani said, in addition to the political independence granted to the Commission under the PURC statute efforts were being made to secure its financial independence.

He said, "I am confident that the sharing of experiences, exposure provided to the professionals and the networking opportunities arising from the partnership will help create the regulatory excellence the Government and Ghanaians expect from the PURC."

Miss Sharon L. Cromer, USAID/Ghana Mission Director said the support of the partnership was part of the USAID's strategy to increase the competitiveness of Ghana's private sector.

She said under the agreement, NARUC would draw on the expertise from its member state regulatory agencies to show the PURC how to encourage public and private participation in the regulatory process and how to carry out their duties in a transparent manner. Miss Cromer said the PURC would have the opportunity to work with practicing US regulators.

She said with the construction of the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) project, Ghana would soon have access to a new resource for the expansion and development of its energy systems-natural gas. The USAID Ghana Mission Director said putting in place a sound gas regulatory framework before the gas started to flow was absolutely necessary to the effective use of that gas.

"All Ghanaians will benefit when Ghana makes efficient use of its expanding energy resources, " she added.

Mr. Kwame Pianim, Chairman of the PURC said although the agreement was for a year, the partnership would continue. He said infrastructure for the PURC were weak and needed investment to improve upon them to charge the appropriate tariffs and the staff with the right analytical skills.

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