WE have noted with keen interest, the proposals by the utility companies to the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC), for a 100 per cent increase in water and electricity tariffs in 2016. At a public forum in Koforidua, the Eastern Regional capital on Monday, the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) is said to be demanding 35Gp per unit of electricity it would supply, upping the current rate of 16Gp.
For their part, the Volta River Authority (VRA), wants the current rate of 15Gp per unit to go up to 30 Gp per unit, while the Ghana GRID Company is also proposing an increment of 5Gp per unit of transmission from the current 4Gp. The Ghana Water (GWCL), is asking for an increase from the current GH¢1.70 per 1,000 litres of water to GH¢4.
We understand and appreciate the reasons provided by the three companies to justify their requests for increment — the high operational costs caused partly by the perennial depreciation of the cedi against the dollar.
We, however, want the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission to take note of the complaints from the public, as it considers the proposals.
Queries are being raised concerning inadequate water supply, pipelines still having no water running through them, the bureaucracy involved in getting connected to pipelines, and a strong appeal to the utility companies to recover all debts owed them by customers, especially state institutions.
The Times, however, is worried that at the forum, the three companies only put in requests for tariff increments without telling the public what they are doing to reduce their operational losses and wastage in the system.
What will it serve them, if their proposals for increment were approved and they were unable to collect the tariffs from consumers?
We understand that about 60 per cent of ECG’s debts are owed by public institutions. Why then do we demand for increment from the poor consumers, without endeavouring to collect the debts and invest them in, and improve service delivery?
Energy experts and analysts are of the view that the ECG can make 32.2 billion dollars annually, if it reduces its current losses by 10 per cent. Globally, it is estimated that well-performing utility provider- losses average between 10 and 20 per cent. However, distribution losses in Ghana are estimated at 30 per cent.
We hold the strong view that the inability of the service providers to tackle the losses head-on, due to their operational inefficiencies, is accounting for the financial burdens and rather than finding solutions to them, they are making the innocent consumers the scapegoats by pushing down their throats the 100 per cent tariff proposals. And this is not the best!
We, therefore, hope the proposals will remain only as such, on the tables of the PURC, until enough justifications are adduced to support the claim that tariff hikes are the only means to resolve the malaise of the utility providers.