PURC Dodges Tariff Issue

Samuel Sarpong Executive Secretary PURCParticipants who attended a  Public Utilities Regulatory Commission forum at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Accra, were yesterday disappointed when it was categorically stated that the programme would not discuss the recent tariffs adjustment which took effect from October 1.

They were anxious to hear feedback from the PURC following the 10-day ultimatum issued by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) on Tuesday to the Commission and the government that if nothing was done to reduce the utility tariffs, workers would embark on a nationwide strike to press home their demand.

The function which was to have started at 9:15 am finally began at 10:27 am when the Director of Public Relations and External Affairs, Nana Yaa Akyempim  Jantuah told the gathering that “the forum is  to create a platform for stakeholders to dialogue on quality of service but not on whether we can pay the tariffs or not”.

This announcement came as a big surprise to some of the pressure groups notably, the Alliance For Accountable Governance (AFAG), whose two representatives at the function had no serious contribution to make since the tariff increase was not the issue at stake for discussion.

Dr Kwabena Donkor, chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Energy, said, consumers’ expectations were always high because policymakers had misinformed them to the effect that power generated by gas was cheaper.

He said that consumers’ expectations and the only option left for government was either to find resources for the Volta River Authority (VRA) to increase its capacity in power generation or allow Independent Power Producers (IPPs) to come in and help.

“We should not think that power produced by independent producers is cheaper than that of the Volta River Authority,” he said, and urged Ghanaians to take fair and bold decisions to put the utility providers in a better stead to provide quality service to the people.

Mr Mohammed Amin Adam, Executive Director of Africa Centre for Energy Policy, said higher tariffs though unavoidable, encouraged people to engage in illegal connections which led to loss of revenue.

He urged the government to consider recapitalising the utilities as well as settle its indebtedness to ensure their smooth, effective and efficient operations.

Mr Ebenezer Baiden, Energy Economist of ECG, said that government had settled all the debts it owed the company (about GH¢500 million) in March this year, and that it (government) even had GH¢15 million subsidy credit with the company.

He said that ECG, was procuring specialised service trucks, tool and safety equipment to support its operations and appealed to customers to report the conduct of unscrupulous staff who engaged in illegal connections for arrest and prosecution.    –  Castro Zangina-Tong        

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