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08.08.2005 Regional News

PURC tells ECG not to summarily disconnect 'dummy account' customers


Kumasi, Aug 8, GNA - The Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) has suggested to the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) not to summarily disconnect "dummy accounts" customers with penalties. Instead the Commission said the ECG should assist them to have their service connections regularised after making them pay the required capital contribution charges.

A letter addressed to the Head of Loss Control Unit of ECG and signed by Mr Eric Effah-Donyina, Ashanti Regional Officer of PURC in Kumasi on Monday, said the Kumasi office of the PURC had been inundated with customer complaints on disconnection of service and the imposition of penalties on customers in respect of service connections alleged to have been illegally procured over the past two weeks.

The Commission said it had learnt that the Loss Control Unit of ECG was in the process disconnecting power supply to customers and imposing penalties to the tune of 6.5 million cedis on the affected customers. "We have also learnt that ECG's reason for this exercise is to track down on a number of customers who have been found to have procured service connections illegally with the connivance of some staff of ECG". The letter noted that the ECG described these accounts as "Dummy Accounts", that is suspended or inactive accounts, which some unscrupulous personnel of the company have managed to re-activate and re-introduced into the billing system of the company and used in connecting power supply to unsuspecting customers.

The Commission said a careful study of circumstances surrounding these service connections, the consumption and billing records of the affected customers had revealed that most of them had since they were first connected, been receiving valid monthly electricity bills in their own names and addresses from the ECG, which they had been duly paying. The letter said although Article 1, sub-section 1 (e) of Legislative Instrument (LI) 1651 of 1999 permits the disconnection of service to a customer who has been illegally connected and PURC also supports and indeed encourages the effort of ECG at tracking down on illegal connections as a way of reducing the company's commercial loses, the Commission was of the view that customers who fell under this description cannot be described as power thieves.

The PURC gave reasons why disconnecting service to their premises and imposing penalties on them should be done with circumspection since most of the customers were not aware that the transactions they entered into were illegal.

Another reason, the letter said, they had since they were connected been receiving valid monthly electricity bills from ECG, which they have been paying duly.

It noted that they had not tampered with or by-passed ECG's energy meters with the intention of concealing or suppressing their consumption of electricity in order to cheat the system.

The Commission said the use of 'dummy accounts' to connect unsuspecting customers by some personnel of ECG was made possible, presumably as a result of some lapses in ECG's system, and not basically through the fault of the affected customers.

It said if ECG, which had better access to information about the validity or otherwise of the affected accounts, could not immediately detect that the accounts and also received payments made by the latter on the accounts, the customers with little or no access to information about the accounts could not reasonably be expected to know that their supply accounts were invalid.

The Commission, however, pledged to intensify its customer education programmes to discourage customers and prospective ones from transacting business with middlemen or staff of ECG in their individual capacity. Aug. 08 05