The Citizens Complaints Centre, established by the President to help in addressing public grievances and fight corruption, is making significant strides as dozens of cases, including extortion and poor service delivery have been resolved.
Since its establishment in February this year, the centre has handled over106 complaints out of which 52 have been fully resolved, while 19 complaints are under investigation by the centre, and seven have been referred to the security agencies for investigation.
Statistics from the Centre show that 18 of the cases handled are pending action due to insufficient evidence from complainants.
Also the interventions and investigations of the unit have led to the retrieval of some monies extorted from citizens by public officials and prosecution.
According to the centre, most of the complaints that were received by the centre related to poor services rendered by some public institutions, extortion of money from citizens by individuals and some public and private firms, poor working conditions and legal issues.
Institutions that were mostly complained of are the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), Ghana Immigration Service, the Passport Office, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority and Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority.
The setting up of the Citizens Complaints Unit under the Office of the President, which has opened the Citizens Complaints Centre, is in line with President Mahama’s resolve to encourage active citizen participation to support the fight against corruption and to enhance the right of citizens to demand better services from state institutions and agencies.
Dr. Clement Apaak, Head of the Citizens Complaints Unit in an interaction with journalists on the performance of the Centre noted that the 106 cases, which were received between February 25 and May 26, 2016, gave an indication of shortfalls in public service delivery and loopholes that create avenues for corrupt practices.
Touching on some specific cases which dominated, he said some complaints received regarding ECG and GWCL suggests that these institutions constantly billed their customers with abnormal consumption charges.
In the case of Ghana Water Company, evidence provided by some complainants confirmed that some of the Customer Care Assistants do not actually go to the field to read the meters but assume and fabricate the figures on the basis for which they are billed.
In the case of ECG, he said most complaints suggested that some ECG stations have not provided their customers with meters after several months of payments for such meters by the customers.
With regard to complaints about DVLA, Dr. Apaak noted that officials in some regions are reported to be charging unapproved car registration fees from citizens.
Similarly, there were complaints about the charging of unapproved fees at the Tema harbour, he said, adding that “the most reported complaint is in relation to the disappearance of imported goods and items such as cars, and the high duty cost on imported goods, which ends up in the pockets of individuals rather than State coffers.”
“It is important to note that the work of the unit has led to the successful retrieval of some monies extorted from citizens,” he said, but declined to provide the specifics since some of the cases were still under investigations.
Touching on some of the challenges the centre faced in its operations, Dr. Apaak said insufficient evidence submitted by some complainants online, sometimes made it difficult to initiate investigation and to follow up.
“The contact lines of some public institutions are dormant. This necessitates trips to those offices for enquiries that could have been done over the phone.
“The Customer Care Assistants in some public institutions are not proactive in the discharge of their duties,” he said.
Explaining the operations of the centre, where citizens can walk in to file complaints, located in the Public Services Commission Building at Ministries in Accra, he said the centre receives complaints through telephone calls, website and walk-in.
The Complaints Centre can be reached on 0302666007 / 0302666447 / 0302666997 or through its website, www.ghanacitizen.org and located in room 209 in the Public Services Commission Building.
By Edmund Mingle