Dear ECG, I beg to propose that you put measures in place to ensure your meters become easily accessible to the longsuffering masses of our people. The trouble and financial strain they go through in trying to acquire your meters are avoidable and unnecessary.
I propose you decentralise the sale of the meters, especially these prepaid ones, by, for example, licensing private agents who will have them in shops for sale, just as you have done for the sale of credit.
When a person buys the meter the number and, perhaps, other details of the customer can then be forwarded to you to capture in your system. There may even be a more efficient way to go about this than what immediately comes to my mind. And I make this proposal not unmindful of the challenges this may bring. But, trust me, it would make for a better system that the very frustrating arrangement we have currently.
In most of the things we do in this country, one cannot but wonder: why do public institutions make Ghanaians suffer so much for no reason, as if the people who man these institutions are sadists?
Consider this case, for example. A gentleman recounts that he is trying to open a small business in a small container and needs electricity to keep the shop open a few hours of nighttime.
His story goes that he approached a nearby shop owner who refused to allow him tap power from his shop. He was directed to see an ECG worker in the neighbourhood. The ECG official asked him to cough up GH¢1000 for the meter and the taping of power from a nearby pole.
The gentleman is wheezing under the weight of it all, as one can imagine that he must have spent a good part of his savings already on other things in getting the shop to take shape.
Even as I narrate this gentleman’s story I am careful not to open this article up for criticism solely based on that one story which, I am sure, may have some weaknesses. So, please ECG, whatever this gentleman has not done right should not be basis for you not to consider my proposal for you to decentralise the sale of your meters.
Yes; the right thing is for the gentleman to have applied directly to the ECG for the meter. But, should he? Must he, really, in this day and age? What is the essence of public service? Is it not to make life easier for the citizenry? Why do we like to stick to the status quo, even if it is rotten to the core?
The fact, also, is that many Ghanaians do not approach our public institutions directly because they have come to believe that these institutions are inept or very inefficient and are associated with nothing but delays and frustration.
That is why a lot of people still make good use of ‘goro’ boys at the passport and licence offices. When I was applying for a driving licence a few years ago, I remember friends teasing me and wondering why I would approach the DVLA directly. A friend said he knew someone who, once I paid GH¢500.00, could get me the licence in no time and without difficulty. I refused.
This friend was to later laugh harder at me when I failed the first test at the DVLA for my licence. I really looked like a fool for wanting to abide by the law. To be honest, I even had second thoughts about sitting the test a second time, although I eventually did and got my licence.
ECG, here’s my other concern
Dear ECG, why should it take three months (if my neighbour is right) after you install a new meter, for it to be captured into your credit vending system? I am deliberating personalising this article for nobody to sit anywhere and assume that I am conjuring the anecdotes from the skies. I moved into a rented home at the beginning of March, just two days after your Dodowa office came to install a meter in the newly built house. Days passed and weeks passed and I did not hear anything from anyone, and I was just using the electricity. So, I approached the landlady one day and asked: “Ah, isn’t this a prepaid meter? Why is it that I am just using the power and nobody is saying anything to me?”
The landlady then advised that I go to one of the ECG vending points with the meter’s number to make enquiries. The following day, on my way to work, I called in at the credit vending container at Ashiyie with a picture of the meter’s screen on my phone. The gentleman checked his system and told me the meter had not been captured yet. A neighbour was to tell me later not to expect my meter to be captured earlier than the next three months. I was taken aback.
Yes; I know that I should seek permission from work one day and go to Dodowa, to follow up on getting the meter captured so that I can start paying the ECG the money it badly needs, for my use of its electricity.
But should I, really? Would a private entity come and fix a meter in my home, connect me to its grid, allow me to use the power without paying for as long as I want, something I did for three years in my previous apartment, and expect me to be the one to approach it and remind it that it has money sitting with me?
Why did the ECG officials who came to install the meter not ensure that its detailed were captured in the system immediately they returned to their office?
This is what is likely to happen, if I do not forego some of my working hours and go chasing them: I will come back from work one day, after using the power for a long time, to see that power has been disconnected, with a note instructing me to come to Dodowa and explain why I am using power “illegally.”
They will start by accusing me of ‘illegal connection’, to put me on the defensive and make me loosen my guard so that they can strike and strike hard. After a little back and forth (I will fight them hard if it happens this time), a careworn but untroubled official will ask me if I use a fridge, a fan and an electric-powered toothpick. He will do a rough calculation, based on the consumer category I fall in, and based on how long I have used the power without paying for it. And then he will drop the bombshell: “Boss, you owe us GH¢3000.00.”
ECG, these are the reasons I shed no tears for you, as the government prepares to hand you over to profiteers, and these are the reasons I do not care what else Dr. Yao Graham will accuse me of, beyond calling me a paid agent of those who want you privatised. But, please, make your meters available on the open market. Consumers need; you need it.