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06.02.2006 Press Review

EDITORIAL: Let’s hold CEO’s, ministers to account

By Chronicle
EDITORIAL: Let’s hold CEO’s, ministers to account

We devote our editorial today, to excerpts of a feature in today's edition of The Chronicle, on the substandard performance of the utility service providers of the country.

The Electricity Corporation of Ghana (ECG) has failed to provide safe and reliable electricity to the Ghanaian community. Regular power failures are now accepted as the normal way of life in Accra, resulting in those homeowners, who can afford it, buying small portable generators for use when there is a power failure.

The performance of the water utility is equally disappointing. Households are regularly without water, and as a result the skyline in Accra is now dotted with 'water towers'.

The performance of the water utility is equally disappointing. Households are regularly without water, and as a result the skyline in Accra is now dotted with 'water towers'.

The small portable electricity generators and the individual water tanks are a more expensive and less efficient remedy for ensuring continuous electricity or water supply from a national point of view. They add to the cost of doing business.

The ECG or the water utility can operate in this manner, so long as their Chief Executives are not required to explain to ordinary Ghanaians why they have to endure constant power or water shortages, the extent of the problem, or what they are doing to remedy the problem and prevent it from happening in the future, and a definite time frame for the solution – a case of lack of accountability (or good governance) on the part of the Government and its officials, and of acquiescence on the part of the public.

Government Ministers are not made to account for the poor performance of public institutions under their portfolio.

The decay one sees around Accra, that has turned large parts of Kwame Nkrumah Circle into a sewer, and allowed gutters in much of Accra to overflow with filth are all symptoms.

Let's face it; the problems facing companies such as the ECG and the water utility are the result of failure on the part of senior executives and relevant Government ministers.

We should therefore be reminding our politicians that an important aspect of good governance involves arrangements for the efficient running of state-owned institutions such as the ECG, with appropriate penalties for poor performance.

It is not good governance when chief executives of state-owned corporations are allowed to run down these corporations either through incompetence or through the knowledge that they will get away with it because of political connections, or public apathy.

If there is good governance, the Government will be specifying the quality of service the Ghanaian public should expect from executives of public companies, together with specified measurable performance indicators that the public and the government can use to judge whether chief executives are doing their jobs well.

Good governance also means that Government ministers are held accountable for the problems of state-owned companies covered by their portfolio.

Even with the best-run electricity utility company, it is not unexpected that once in a while there will be interruptions to the power supply due to factors, which are beyond the control of the company, such as lightning strikes.

Such disruptions are acceptable.

What is unacceptable is the erratic nature of the supply of electricity by ECG. It is unacceptable because, in addition to the inconvenience such disruptions cause households, and the cost in terms of damage to electronic equipment, they are bad for economic development.

The disruptions to the power supply and the actions taken by individuals to overcome them add to the cost of doing business in Ghana.

The problems of electricity are better considered together with the problems of water supply, and the telecommunications infrastructure as foreign investors judge an economy and make investment decisions based on the quality of the communications, the electricity, road and the water supply infrastructure of a country.

Which foreign investor wants to invest in a country where his or her production schedules will constantly be disrupted because of unreliable electricity supply? Or where communication with suppliers or clients is haphazard because of poor the telecommunications network?

We will not have to worry about the state of the electricity, telecommunication and water if we were competing with only Nigeria or Burkina Faso. Unfortunately we are competing with the rest of the world. That means the sorry state of the electricity, communications and water supply networks has made us internationally uncompetitive, and is likely to be the main reason why the country has failed to attract foreign direct investment.

Until the infrastructure network in this country is improved, these trips will amount to nought except the cost to Ghanaian taxpayers.

Without the foreign investment there are no factories. Without factories no employment is created, and half of the population of the country will continue eking out a living by selling dog chains!