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Consumers kick against proposed utility tariff increments -ECG wants to cut loss

BY: Mohammed Fugu & Shirley Asiedu-Addo
Dr Ismael Ackah, Executive Secretary of the PURC, speaking to the media
Dr Ismael Ackah, Executive Secretary of the PURC, speaking to the media

Utility consumers in the Northern Region have appealed to service providers to postpone their demand for the upward adjustment of water and electricity tariffs next month in view of the current economic hardship in the country.

Given the prevailing economic conditions, they said, an increment in utility tariffs would worsen the plight of the citizens.

Meanwhile, the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) has said it is targeting to cut losses by five per cent through a special exercise to rectify illegalities.

At different stakeholder engagements by the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) in Tamale and Cape Coast, consumers said it was unfair for the ECG to increase its tariffs, given the current general economic hardship in the country.

Tamale

The Tamale forum was to elicit consumers’ views on the submitted utility tariff proposals for the 2022-2027 Multi Tariff Review Period.

The Northern Electricity Distribution Company (NEDCo) and the Ghana Water Company Limited have proposed 113.4 and 334 per cent hikes in tariffs, respectively.

They are demanding over a 100 per cent increment in tariffs to meet what they call operational costs.

In view of that, the PURC is currently engaging all stakeholders across the country to solicit their views before announcing new tariffs.

Concerns

Speaking at the Tamale forum, a participant, Adam Nuhu, said the current economic condition in the country was not favourable for tariff increments, as they would overburden consumers.

“Kindly postpone the proposed tariff adjustment. Let us see how we can swim through the troubling waters at this time, so that we get to a comfort zone before you come back to talk about them. For now, talk about your losses and how you hope to recover them,” he said.

Another participant, Yakubu Grace, said: “I think the service providers are not proposing to us but putting it to us that they have come to a conclusion because they never consulted us before coming up with the proposed percentage increments.”

In her view, the best approach for the service providers was to solicit public view in order to build consensus on the percentage of increment, but not determine the rate of increment before engaging the public.

Overburden consumers

For his part, the Paramount Chief of the Sagnarigu Traditional Area, Naa Yakubu Abdulai, while acknowledging the high tariffs and the economic hardship, urged the service providers and the PURC to ensure that the new tariff increments did not overburden consumers.

The Executive Secretary of the PURC, Dr Ishmael Ackah, gave an assurance that the commission would ensure a balanced interest for both consumers and the utility providers.

“Most of the concerns have not been so much about the increment but the economic conditions and the kind of services the companies provide, so we will look into that to ensure the interest of all stakeholders,” he noted.

Cape Coast

At a media interaction in Cape Coast, the ECG said it was targeting reducing its current 28 per cent losses to at least 23 per cent at the end of the special auditing exercise.

The Director of Customer Services of the company, Abraham Anokye Abebrese, said the target was in line with the PURC’s acceptable losses level of 22.6 per cent.

He said the auditing would include resolving illegalities and anomalies in power distribution and theft through uncaptured meters, faulty meters, meter by-passing and meter tampering during its one-month moratorium given customers from June 7 to July 6, 2022, during which period the company would work with all to ensure that anomalies were corrected.

Mr Abebrese advised persons who had illegally connected power to take advantage of the moratorium to rectify all illegalities and anomalies.

He indicated that power theft had been a significant contributor to power losses.

Prosecution

He warned that after the moratorium, all illegalities would be seen as theft and prosecuted.

Mr Abebrese said the company would check every house and every meter to check for illegalities or anomalies and prosecute offenders.