BRINGING QUALITY TO THE SERVICES WE PAY FOR

Wonders will never end? Why do I summon this cliché to my screen this quiet Monday morning?

It’s because I had no internet service all weekend. And then, on Monday morning, at exactly seven a.m., we had a power cut!

I was as miserable as you can imagine. Starting the week with a power cut not only arouses bad feelings in those who are prone to superstition but also, it forces the very rational people among us to examine our way of life objectively, to see whether there is something we can do better.

As if something intangible was guiding me, I chanced upon an article in Graphic Online that ran as follows:

QUOTE:
“Cabinet approves National Quality Policy – It’ll guide production of quality goods, services
Date: May – 13 – 2022

Cabinet has approved the National Quality Policy to operationalise a National Quality Infrastructure (NQI).
The NQI is a system that spells out how goods and services must be produced to meet acceptable standards by all sectors of the economy, whether private or public….It will ensure that the production and provision of goods and services meet internationally acceptable quality standards” UNQUOTE

The article specified that the “Cabinet approved the implementation of the policy at its meeting on Thursday, April 28, 2022”.

I confess that almost jumped for joy on reading this piece of news. Had someone been reading my thoughts and communicated them to the Cabinet?

But reality soon set in. This could well be one of those
schemes announced by the authorities to convince the populace that they were aware of what our society needs, but which are left to gather dust in the offices of Ministries and Corporations, as soon as the public has swallowed the bait.

To begin with, why did the announcement not come from the Office of the Secretary to the Cabinet, but from “The Head of Public Relations at the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA)”? Isn’t the Ghana Standards Authority already charged with some of the responsibilities the “new body” is supposedly going to take on?

If I were in government, I don’t think I would need a Cabinet decision to tell the people who distribute electricity in Ghana that their work falls below “internationally acceptable quality standards” whenever they cut power off without prior announcements. Such announcements can alert consumers of electricity for loss of service, so that they can if they can have an alternative source of power available, if possible.

Does the Ghana Standards Authority ever monitor the “standards” of service provided to the Ghanaian public by the electricity suppliers? If not, why not? Doesn’t electricity production fall into the category of services rendered to the public? Even if bureaucratic limitations currently preclude the Standards Authority from ascertaining whether the electricity supply system is serving the public in a manner “acceptable to international standards” has it studied the problem and drawn attention to its findings?

I have observed that whenever we have a power cut in our area and I make enquiries about it, all I am told is that the electricity suppliers are facing “challenges”! What “challenges”? An opaque shroud is drawn over the issue. And the next power occurs without explanation. And the next. And the next. And the next.

I have a suspicion, not entirely bred by the cynicism to which one is driven when one surveys the Ghana bureaucratic system, that what the Cabinet has been sold is another block in the “empire building” stakes.

The reason why it occurs to me that we may merely be experiencing another public relations exercise is that these power cuts are occuring in areas some of which are occupied by well-off people.

Whenever the power is cut, one begins to hear the sound of electricity generators being put immediately into operation.

The generators disturb people who want to work at home; or who need a quiet repose because they are unwell; or who want to enjoy sports or other TV entertainment programmes after a hard day’s slog in the office.

Surely, the economically affluent people who reside in these relatively new estates do know bureaucrats and politicians who can change the power supply situation? If the bureaucrats and politicians have heard from persons they know socially who can give them reliable information on the occurrence of power cuts, but have done nothing about it, out of sheer indifference (as anyone who has tried to change inefficient systems in Ghana must know!) transforming a public supervisory body into another public supervisory body, won’t solve the problem?

The question is, why hasn’t the electricity distribution system got any better during the past two or three years that i have been forced to experience the results of its operations?

Why don’t they ever talk to us? Do their problems stem partly – for instance – from the activities of estate-builders, who need to deprive their resident of power if and when they need to supply power to newly-erected premises? If this is happening, why doesn’t the electricity supplier tell the public? And where has the Ghana Standards Authority been whilst this has been taking place? Silence is golden, say both Ghana’s service providers and the managers of public bodies established to supervise the provision of services.

And now, I come to another old chestnut of mine:the billing system of our internet service providers, the mobile phone companies. When I lives abroad, one bought credit for internet and voice services, and (if it was a pay-as-you-go service) the credit was used up as one connected to the internet, or spoke on the mobile phone. When the credit was exhausted, one merely topped up.

But here. When one wants to “top up”, one must specify whether the amount paid is for (1) air time (presumably for voice conversations) or (2) internet bundles and I think a third category known as data!

Can you imagine how frustrating it is that one has paid money to a mobile phone company and yet one cannot use the particular service one needs, because one’s money was paid for the wrong service? What do I care whether my money went into account A, B or C (all run by the same company!) whilst I am being denied service for Account D of the same company?

I have told friends in the communications industry many times about this completely unnecessary problem which can confront customers who do not know the system in Ghana and so asks someone to “please go and buy me credit!”

More often than not they buy the wrong credit, So that should be made IMPOSSIBLE! Credit must be credit. Period.

After all, the communication company has only one account for REVENUE, doesn’t it? Why should it be difficult for it to convert say, 200 Cedis in the Voice Account to 200 Cedis in the Internet account? The division caused no doubt primarily by a primitive categorisation system falls below international standards and our National Communications Agency must abolish that system as sub-standard and save Ghanaians from hours of being unnecessarily cut off from the Internet, and all the frustration and lost business that that can bring about.

BY CAMERON DUODU

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