Editorial : Who accounts for street-light levies?

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We were recently told by the Energy Minister, John Peter Amewu, that the 3% levy charged all consumers of electricity for street lighting generated GH¢273.9million for the years 2018 and 2019.

And out of that amount, the minister stated, GH¢134,266,116 was collected in 2018 and GH¢139,610,716 the following year.

Per the Energy Sector Levies (Amendment) Act, 2017 (Act 946), a 3 percent levy of electricity shall be charged on all categories of consumers to support payment of energy consumed by traffic lights, street lights, public lights on highways, to support investment and maintenance of traffic lights, street lights, public lights on highways by Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies.

Judging from Act 947, we do not seem to be doing a good job of maintaining and installing street lights in some of the principal streets in our major cities, since many are faulty or not functioning; yet every consumer of electricity in the country has this levy deducted from their electricity bills.

Are we really getting value for money from such deductions, when even on the Accra-Tema motorway the streetlights have been off for years on end? Who is ensuring that the money goes to where it is most needed, since Ghanaians can attest that most streetlights in our cities are dysfunctional.

We expected the minister to tell Ghanaians how such monies were utilised, and which streetlights were repaired and at what cost. It is one thing having an Act in place stating a percentage deduction on electricity consumed to maintain streetlights and traffic lights, but we are witness to a malfunctioning lighting system on our principal streets.

Just last week, residents in parts of Awoshie, a surburb of Accra, had to demonstrate by blocking roads due to faulty traffic lights in the area. According to the demonstrating residents, the traffic lights have been non-functional for months – causing motor accidents which have led to the death of some of their neighbours.

Does it take residents to block streets and rampage before authorities realise that traffic lights are faulty? We have been asked to be citizens and not spectators, so perhaps the residents of Awoshie decided to demonstrate that they are indeed citizens by demanding their due.

That beautiful highway from Achimota to Ofankor has all its streetlights damaged, and that is a major trunk road which sees heavy vehicular movement from Accra to Kumasi; yet we have left it to deteriorate and become a death-trap for vehicles moving at night on that stretch, since they move at high speed.

We need to hold our duty-bearers to account; otherwise, we are operating a lopsided democracy.

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