Last Monday, the Minister of Energy, Mr Emmanuel Boakye Agyarko, stoked a hot debate after he descended heavily on the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) for allowing a huge crippling debt round its neck.
The minister, who appeared to have received in-depth briefing since he settled in his seat, recounted how the ECG had failed to collect its debt from mobile telephone giant MTN and the Embassy of the United States of America, both of which were ready to pay their bills but the ECG did not seem to be prepared to receive the money.
Then the minister alluded to a negative working capital of about GH¢2 billion, which meant that ECG collected very little of what was due them. The power distributor is said to collect only GH¢50 million out of the GH¢130 million due it in a week.
The Public Utilities Workers Union (PUWU), whose members work with the ECG, have categorically denied the minister’s assertions, discounting them as untrue.
The Daily Graphic has followed the issues from both sides and first finds the excuses by the workers as lame because, this kind of argument, if allowed to stand, means no state enterprise can function well.
ECG, like many state institutions, is supposed to be an autonomous body, whose autonomy will be exerted by its leadership. If the leadership allows political interference to subsist, the same people cannot admit to it in public, because they have the right to say no to such interferences.
There is no excuse for their inability to collect debts from whichever entity; it must live true to its function whether the customer is a state agency, a private corporate body or an individual. It will not take a substantive CEO or governing board for the usual or routine to be executed.
The Daily Graphic wants to ask what happened to the ECG’s policy to install prepaid meters at the MDAs. What engagements went on among the ECG, the government and the MDAs?
Or is it a case of hiding behind political interference to conceal their incompetencies?
Interestingly, the ECG workers did not address what they were doing to stop the unacceptable occurrence of distribution losses. It is true that some workers of the ECG connive with individuals to bypass meters, tamper with them or connect power illegally to households such that they cannot be traced to the system in order to avoid paying bills directly to the company.
The Daily Graphic thinks that the issues the minister raised are valid and workers of ECG must collaborate with their sector ministry to resolve the deep challenges. They should be mindful of the fact that investments in power infrastructure are so huge that the least a worker would like to pride himself/herself on is his/her ability to contribute to recouping those investments.
Similarly, we call on all Ghanaians to raise their voices against the government’s inability to settle its indebtedness to state institutions. This is as unfair as tying somebody’s hands behind and asking them for a fight.
The Daily Graphic says this because the government is a going concern, a continuum and, therefore, does not matter who is in the driving seat. The government needs to be aware that its failure to honour its financial obligations is akin to a debtor who does not care about his debt.
We, therefore, call on everybody and every entity with anything to do with sustaining ECG to do their part to revive the country’s only power distributor.