Public utility workers kick against ECG concession agreement

Mr. Ato Kwamina Bonzie Quaye (middle) answering questions from the media. Flanking him are Mr. Joseph Boateng (left), Vice chairman and Mr. Michael Nyantakyi, Deputy General Secretary.

Mr. Ato Kwamina Bonzie Quaye (middle) answering questions from the media. Flanking him are Mr. Joseph Boateng (left), Vice chairman and Mr. Michael Nyantakyi, Deputy General Secretary.

The Public Utility Workers Union (PUWU) has asked the government to reconsider its decision to give the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) as concession.

According to the Union, the decision would not bring reforms to make ECG more efficient and profitable considering the astronomical bills that consumers are paying now.

At a news conference in Accra yesterday to state its position on the planned concession, the General Secretary of the PUWU, Mr. Ato Kwamina Bonzi-Quaye said the investor interest was to make profit and not thinking of the plight of the ordinary citizens they served.

He cited an example of the Aqua Vitens Rand Limited which took over the operations of Ghana Water Company Limited who came to ‘rip’ the country and consequently left the company in the state they met it.

In a nine-point highlight on why the concession was not in the best interest of the country, Mr. Bondzi-Quaye said the private investor would not give due attention to rural electrification which was a social intervention.

According to him, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) grant was targeted at improving only ECG networks in Accra, Tema and Kasoa areas and not the entire country.

“Creating a virtual private monopoly in the energy distribution section has the potential of creating chaos for the country, since most of our regulatory institutions in the country are not very strong”, he said.

He contended that should the privatisation be carried out, local content participation was likely to suffer because the investor’s objective was to maximise returns on its investment.

The tendency, he said, was that the investor would prefer to source for cheap materials from outside the country at the expense of Ghanaian suppliers.

The General-Secretary noted that when there was a transformation of the operations of ECG as a result of creating the enabling environment, all the profits generated would be repatriated outside with its attendant negative impact on the cedi.

Mr. Bonzi-Quaye said there was no example of real success story of a concession out there in any country especially in a developing or middle income country with the networks similar to that of ECG.

“Even in Uganda where the concession is dealing with a small distribution network, the concession is facing several challenges and the private investor keeps changing hands after making good money”, he said.

As an alternative to the planned concession, Mr. Bonzi-Quaye said government should address the leadership  problem by appointing dynamic and competent leaders with a fixed tenure of about five years contract, may be renewable with key performance indicators, isolated from political interference.

He cited the Tema Oil Refinery as example which bounced back after putting competent and committed people in place.

He stated that government should provide the same conditions promised the private investor to create the enabling environment necessary to enable the company operate efficiently.

The General-Secretary urged the government to try the strategic business unit concept that had commenced in the Ashanti Region and proper appraisal done after the end of the pilot.

He urged government and the Millennium Challenge Corporation to review the private sector participation project under the ECG financial and operational turnaround project in the compact and modify it to include pragmatic steps that could bring efficiency and profitability.

Mr. Bonzi-Quaye urged government to pay its debt of about 40 per cent which it owed to enable ECG perform effectively.

He urged the Public Utility Regulatory Commission to retract its earlier directive asking ECG to suspend its new billing software since it had not consulted officials of ECG before issuing the said directive.

 By Francis Asamoah Tuffour & Julius Yao Petetsi   

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