Imitate PURC!!

The Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) has collected a total of GH¢5.7 million from the utility service providers and paid it as compensation to consumers last year.

The consumers received the compensation as a result of over-billing and damage caused by the utility providers to appliances as a result of power surge or sag, for example.

The Commission also recovered GH¢548,383 last year as revenue for utilities from outstanding bills owed by consumers.

This followed the resolution of 10,701 out of a total of 10,987 complaints lodged with it last year, meaning 286 are outstanding.

The breakdown shows 6,470 complaints against the Electricity Company of Ghana out of which 6,343 were resolved; 1,398 against the Ghana Water Company Limited out of which 1,380 were resolved; and 2,995 against the Northern Electricity Distribution Company out of which 2,854 were resolved.

Interestingly the utility service providers too raised 147 complaints against consumers and all were resolved.

It is relieving and more so that the PURC sought compensation from the service providers to appease customers who suffered from poor service.

Showing its objective side, the PURC also managed to retrieve from consumers outstanding bills owed to the utility companies.

It is hoped that the 286 outstanding complaints for last year would be resolved soon so they do not make things difficult for this year’s to be resolved timely.

One issue that raises questions are that it seems only the power companies, the Electricity Company of Ghana and the Northern Electricity Distribution Company, suffered the payment of compensation.

Sometimes the Ghana Water Company (GWC) too hurts customers by not being consistent with their flow of water when there is no prior announcement to that effect.

It seems it is also about time schedule officers of GWC and their subordinates are surcharged for water that flows to waste from pipe burst or any other fault reported by members of the public but are not attended to timely.

The PURC must be commended particularly for not restricting consumers to one channel for complaints but multiple outlets, including WhatsApp; field checks by officials of utility services;  phone-ins, walk in, writing, Consumer Service Committee (CSC) and toll free telephone lines.

It must also be commended for opening nine regional operations offices but Ghanaian Times encourages it to open seven more to have one office for each of the 16 regions instead of the current situation where some of the regions are under one office.

This would save some complainants longer travel time to access services in other regions.

This paper is not commending the PURC for doing its work but for its strategies to make sure consumers are satisfied with the services provided by the utility service providers.

After all, the PURC was established under the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission Act, 1997 (Act 538) to regulate the provision of public utility services to consumers by providing  guidelines for rates chargeable for the provision of utility services; promoting fair competition among public utilities; and conducting  investigations into standards of quality of service given to consumers.

Thus, the PURC monitors and enforces standards of performance for provision of utility services; settles complaints relating to utility services; and advises any person or authority in respect of any public utility.

The fact that the Commission is prosecuting its mandate through innovative ways is exemplary for other public organisations to outlive negligence, avoid being conservative and improve on their activities.

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