General News of Monday, 19 January 2015
Source: Graphic Online
The Ministry of Power has intensified its fight against consumers who owe the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) by setting up a task force to collect every pesewa owed the utility company.
Known as the “Pay Your Bills Now” task force, it is expected to collect a little over GHc522 million owed the ECG as of the third quarter of 2014.
According to the Minister of Power, Dr Kwabena Donkor, the current balance sheet of the ECG was reflected in the poor financial situation of the country’s power-generating entities, including the Volta River Authority (VRA), the Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCo) and the independent power producers.
It is still unclear why state institutions continue to owe the ECG, especially when the company claimed in January 2013 that it had installed prepaid meters in 80 per cent of offices belonging to ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
The measure, which was a directive by the then Vice-President, Mr John Dramani Mahama, in 2010, was to curb the abuse of electricity consumption at the MDAs, while the government took the necessary action to clear its huge indebtedness to the ECG.
The exercise was fiercely resisted by some MDAs but the ECG insisted on carrying it out and so and by December last year it had installed 900 meters in various MDAs.
Prior to the exercise, the government’s indebtedness to the ECG had piled up over the years and stood at Ghc80 million.
The task force is also to ensure that there are enough cash payment points at all operational areas of the ECG.
In areas where the ECG is not well represented, an adequate number of bonded cashiers and prepayment vendors would be engaged by the task force to make it easier for customers to pay their bills.
Additionally, in cases where customers fail to pay their bills within 42 days, they will be disconnected. However, in circumstances where the amount involved is GHc1,000 or more, only the district manager could reschedule a payment plan.
The task force also has a responsibility for loss reduction by unearthing illegal connections, meter tampering and bypassing.
Meanwhile, at the press conference in Accra, officials of the Power Ministry and the ECG could not tell how much public institutions owed the ECG but insisted that all accumulated debts owed the company would be collected without favouritism.
“The ECG alone has the capacity to collapse the economy of Ghana and the power industry is on the brink of failure if we do not collect our revenue and collect it timeously,” he said.
Dr Donkor said the company, together with the task force, was prepared to aggressively use the courts to ensure that both private and public sector clients who owed the ECG paid their debts.
“As a nation, we cannot afford to let this valuable asset called the ECG to collapse. It will be most irresponsible on our part to allow that,” he said.
On prepaid meters, he said the ECG had lost millions of cedis to illegal connections and by-passes, sometimes with the connivance of employees of the company.
That situation, he said, would become a thing of the past, as the task force would ensure a change of attitude among workers of the ECG, particularly the anti-social behaviour of some ECG workers who collaborated with people to steal from the company and the various by-passes that the ECG had the capacity to detect but had ignored because the workers privately benefitted from them.
For those who did not like the prepaid system, he said, the task force would ensure that they were unable to sabotage the exercise, adding, “We will bring the full force of the state behind the ECG and they will collect.”
Dr Donkor said at present, Sunon Asogli, a utility supplier in Tema, owed the VRA close to $130 million for gas supplied.
“They are unable to pay because the ECG owes them far more than they owe the VRA. The ECG owes the VRA and other independent power producers (IPPs) even bigger sums of money,” he said.
Dr Donkor said the ECG was a national asset that was owned by every Ghanaian, for which reason there was the need for each and every citizen to ensure the survival of the commercial entity by working together for its success.
He said the refusal to pay bills promptly did not only affect the services rendered to consumers but also served as a disincentive to the country’s investments.
He said that attitude also diminished the country’s ability to attract IPPs, which later resulted in the poor quality of service to the final consumer.
Dr Donkor also urged the media to help educate the public on the need to pay for power consumed, saying, “We will have to learn to manage our energy resources far more efficiently.”
He said the country had also exhausted all its major hydro potential and, therefore, “we do not even have the opportunity of cheap power, as we had in the past, so there is the need to manage more efficiently the power, our commercial attitude and, more importantly, our conservation of power activities as a nation must change”.