Gov’t debt collapsing ECG, not inefficiency -- PUWU
The Public Utilities Workers Union (PUWU) of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has reacted strongly to claims by the Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko, that the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) is woefully underperforming in collecting bills owed by its consumers.
The Minister speaking to journalists and officials from the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA) after the inauguration of a 7-member ECG PSP Stakeholders’ Committee in Accra is quoted as saying that out of GH¢130 million weekly revenue target, ECG collects only GH¢50 million.
The Energy Minister also stated that the utility provider’s debt stock is currently on the rise due to a faulty metering system and avoidable employee recklessness.
But the General Secretary of PUWU, Lawyer Michael Adumatta Nyantakyi told the B&FT in an interview that the Minister’s statements are not only unfortunate but are not supported by facts which are available.
According to him, ECG’s currently average weekly collection is GH¢104 million, as against a target of GH¢130 million which, he said, excludes indebtedness by Metropolitan, Municipal & District Assemblies (MMDAs) and Ghana Water Company Limited, which are state entities.
“If there is any accumulation of debt, then it is just coming from the angle of the MMDAs, and this has come about because of political directives not to disconnect the MMDAs because government has promised to pay the bills of the MMDAs.
“However, as at the end of 2016, the MMDAs debt stood at GH¢1.4 billion. For the first three months of 2017, the MMDAs debt totalled GH¢227 million and of this debt for 2017, government has paid GH¢18 million.
“As at the end of March 2017, total debt including that of GWCL was GH¢1.6 billion. So it is strange for the Minister to attribute this accumulation of debt to the reckless acts or behaviour of ECG employees.
The PUWU General Secretary said the debt accumulation the Minister is talking about emanates from government’s non-payment of MMDAs bills, and not any inaction on the part of ECG employees.”
He argued that there have been several instances where efforts to collect amounts owing from MMDAs have been frustrated and sometimes interfered by political pressures, such that even organisations that were disconnected were asked to be reconnected by political authorities.
Mr. Nyantakyi also dispelled the Minister’s revelations that despite the US Embassy willingness to pay debt it owed the ECG, the utility provider has not been able to retrieve the bills.
He stated categorically that the US Embassy is not indebted to the ECG and as such it is strange that the US Embassy will purportedly make such claims.
“As far we know to date, the US Embassy does not owe ECG in terms of bills. So if they were not getting bills, would they have paid all their indebtedness till date? So this is a statement we find very unfortunate, and ask the Minister to provide further details,” Mr. Nyantakyi said.
With respect to an amount of GH¢35 million owed by ECG, he explained that it is due to a billing anomaly which is currently being rectified and thus cannot be true that ECG is not making any attempt to retrieve the debts owed by MTN.
“We want to state that as the sector Minister, we expect him to provide strategic direction and policy guidelines for the company, and not to descend into these minor operational areas which the management of the ECG can easily deal with,” Mr. Nyantakyi said.