Some consumers of electricity and water in Tamale, the Northern Regional capital have attributed the increase in illegal connection of utilities in the metropolis to delays and the cumbersome processes involved in procuring new services and metres.
They called on the two utility companies responsible for the supply of electricity and water in the metropolis, the Northern Electricity Distribution Company (NEDco) and the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) to develop a mechanism that will enable consumers to pay the debts they owed them than to resort to mass disconnection.
In the view of the consumers, this had led to an increase in illegal connection of utility services in the metropolis.
"It is a fact that one cannot live without electricity and water and therefore the utility companies must be proactive and add a human face to their operations to win the support of the public in the fight against illegal connections in the metropolis", consumer noted.
The consumers expressed these concerns at the maiden complaints clinic organised by the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) in Tamale last Tuesday.
The forum which was attended by members of the various trades associations such as wielders, hairdressers, barbers and a cross section of the public as well as management and other staff members of NEDCo and GWCL was, among others, to provide a platform for utility service providers and consumers to harvest workable ideas in order to improve on service delivery in the region.
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It was also an opportunity for the service providers to take on board pertinent complaints for resolution .
Some of the participants at the forum cited instances to back their claims, saying for instance " if I owed NEDCo an amount of GH¢1,000 and I go and buy power to the tune of GH¢600 NEDCo should be able to sell power for GH¢300 to me and use the remaining GH¢300 to defray part of the amount I owed them and I believe with this arrangement gradually one will be able to pay off the debts owed them than to resort to instant disconnection", Mohammed Rafiu, a welder said.
Mamunatu Issah, a shop operator said she applied for a new service but it had taken NEDCo more than six months to provide her with the service.
This situation, some residents said had compelled many people to resort to illegal connection and therefore appealed to the utility service providers to be proactive and quick in responding to the needs of the public.
"It is not the intention of anyone to steal power or water but because of the delays on the part of the utility providers in responding to the needs of the public", they stated.
In response to the concerns raised by the public, representative of NEDCo and GWCL said they had taken them on board and would see how best to address them.
The Corporate Communications Manager of NEDCo, Mr Maxwell Kofi Kotoka and the Communications Officer of the Northern and Upper Regions of GWCL, Mr Nicholas Nii-Abbey in presentations on behalf of their respective companies called for the support of the public by paying their bills promptly to enable them to provide efficient services and also desist from attacking their staff who go round to check on meters.
The Northern Regional Manager of PURC, Mr Issahaku Mashoud, in his welcome address, reiterated the call on the public to desist from illegal connections which has been a major challenge to the operations of the utility providers in the metropolis.
He said the PURC will be prompt, fair and firm in dealing with issues to ensure that no consumer is short-changed but in the same vein, appealed to consumers to pay their bills promptly and be responsible in their use of utilities.