Michael Adumatta Nyantakyi
THE PUBLIC Utility Workers Union (PUWU) has called on the Energy Sector Minister to provide strategic direction and policy guidelines for the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) but not to descend into minor operational areas which management of the company could easily deal with.
In a statement issued recently and signed by Michael Adumatta Nyantakyi, General Secretary of PUWU, which reacted to a publication by this newspaper headlined: “Energy Minister Uncovers ECG’s Rot”, PUWU indicated that Municipal, Metropolitan and District Assemblies (MMDAs) were to be blamed for ECG’s debts instead of the company.
“If there is any accumulation of debt, then it is just coming from the angle of the MMDAs, and this has come about because of political directives not to disconnect the MMDAs because government has promised to pay the bills of the MMDAs. However, as at the end of 2016, the MMDAs debt stood at GH¢1,390,966,034.74.
“For the first three months of 2017, the MMDA debts totaled GH¢226,967,736.08, and of this debt for 2017, government has paid GH¢18,133,575.17. As at the end of March 2017, total debt including that of GWCL was GH¢1,599,800,195.66, so it is strange for the Minister to attribute this accumulation of debt to the reckless acts or behaviour of ECG employees.
“If there is any debt accumulation, then it is the direct action of government for non-payment of MMDA bills, and not any inaction on the part of ECG employees. There have been several instances where efforts to collect amounts MMDAs owe have been frustrated and sometimes interfered by political pressures, such that even organisations that were disconnected were asked to be reconnected by political authorities.”
It continued that four months into the new government, ECG had no board. “..And with an Acting Managing Director, how do you expect key decisions to be taken to ensure improvement in the company’s operation? Is it the question of giving the dog a bad name, so to hang it?
“And we also want to draw the attention of government that such kind of pronouncements will not inure to the benefits of the Company or Ghana, because at the end of the day, even if you are going ahead with this PSP, you are projecting a very weak Company that will weaken the negotiations with any prospective bidder, and we think that the Minister ought to look at the bigger picture and see how to position ECG to be a Company that can provide value for Ghana and for Ghanaians.”
ECG’s currently average weekly collection is GH¢103,918,594.11, as against a target of GH¢130,000,000. This excludes indebtedness by MMDAs and Ghana Water Company Limited, which are state entities.
US embassy billing
According to PUWU, the assertion that the US Embassy demands bills and ECG had not been able to provide the Embassy with bills was also very strange because as far it knows to date; the US Embassy did not owe ECG in terms of bills. “So if they were not getting bills, would they have paid all their indebtedness till date? So this is a statement we find very unfortunate, and ask the Minister to provide further details. Similar details are also required about the issue of spare parts. Currently ECG is having shortage of materials which is affecting the one day service that was introduced by the Company.”
“With respect to MTN owing ECG about GH¢35,000,000 as asserted by the Minister, PUWU said that was basically an issue of billing arrangement and some challenges with the initial CMS as it was deployed, which had been identified, and efforts were underway towards correcting the situation. It said MTN had over 1000 sites, with some MTN sites already being billed through the Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) system, allowing bills to be read automatically from remote areas.
“It is the few areas which are not on the AMR that arrangements are being made to sort out the actual amounts that MTN has to pay, which some of the residential sites are being made to pay. However, the billing anomaly has been identified and the corrections are being made, so it is not accurate to say that MTN owes that much and nothing is being done to collect monies from it.”
By Samuel Boadi