Saatingli Naa Alhaji Dr. Nagumsi, the traditional ruler of Choggu Traditional Area in the Northern Region, has called on public utility service providers to always consult with chiefs and other opinion leaders in the communities before embarking on any kind of illegal disconnections or arrests.
This consultation would ease tensions and prevent conflicts during the exercise.
The traditional ruler emphasised that failure on the part of utility service providers to involve chiefs, assembly members, and other opinion leaders in their field operational activities often results in confrontations.
“To the utility service providers, let me remind you that you should always consult for assistance if you are in doubt of a particular situation. Respect the authority of our revered chiefs, who are ready to listen to you during your entry and exit to areas within their jurisdictions,” he said.
The Choggu Saatingli Naa made these comments in a speech read on behalf of the Paramount Chief of the Choggu Traditional Area, Choggu Naa Mahamadu II, at a one-day Consumer Service Clinic organised by the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) in the Sagnarigu Municipality. He also charged utility service providers to adopt customer-friendly control systems during the implementation of their policies.
He highlighted the complaints of utility consumers, especially the indiscriminate increment of tariff rates, saying that “most times the tariffs are without proper justifications”.
He further lamented the problems associated with electricity and water supply often take unnecessarily longer time, such as getting approval for applicants of new metres. This pushes them to buy from black marketing sources at very exorbitant prices. Faulty metres, poles, and cables are not easily replaceable. Broken water pipelines, when reported, do not get the required attention, whereas high costs of service materials and bills take a longer time to get to the consumers.
Dr. Ishmael Ackah, Executive Secretary of the PURC, said the Consumer Service Clinic became necessary after the PURC realised that utility service providers and consumers did not understand their responsibilities.
He stated that in order to promote cordiality among all parties and ensure that everyone lives up to their responsibilities, the PURC realised that a forum like the Consumer Service Clinic was very important.
“Utility service providers and consumers need each other. The utility providers need to provide the service, and at the end of the day someone needs to consume what has been provided. There’s therefore the need for utility providers to provide quality and timely service to the consumer. There’s also the need for the consumer to pay for the quality service being provided so that the utility service provider can continue to render such quality service,” he said.
Last year, the Northern Electricity Distribution Company Limited (NEDCo) billed some customers GH¢15million resulting from illegal connections, and was only able to retrieve GH¢3million, he explained.
“So we realised that there is the need to rescue the regulated utility service providers, including Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), and the consumers by saving the consumers from the burden of illegal connections.
“We believe if we are able to educate the consumer to understand what illegal connection will bring to bear and also get them to understand the effects it has on the utilities, and getting the utility service providers to also be very much proactive, it would help rescue the parties involved and get some justice in the system,” Dr. Ackah said.
Dr. Ackah said that beyond the Consumer Service Clinic, he hoped that the misunderstandings between consumers and utility service providers would have reduced, leading to improved service quality and increased revenue mobilisation.
Edward Boadua, Northern Regional Manager of PURC, speaking to the B&FT, appealed to consumers to pay their bills promptly as soon as they receive them so that utility service providers can also make the investments, they need to ensure continuous quality service delivery.
PURC provides guidelines for rates to be charged by GWCL and NEDCo for the provision of utility services, examines and approves utility rates, protects the interest of consumers and providers of utility services, monitors and enforces standards of performance for the provision of utility services to promote fair competition among public utilities, and investigates and settles disputes between utility service providers and consumers.