The Public Utilities Workers Union (PUWU) of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has refuted alleged claims by the Minister of Energy, Mr Boakye Agyarko, that the Electricity Company of Ghana’s (ECG’s) debt stock is worsening by the day due to faulty metering system and avoidable employee recklessness.
In a statement issued in Accra and signed by its General Secretary, Mr Michael Adumatta Nyantakyi, the PUWU said the current weekly collection figures excluded indebtedness by metropolitan, municipal and district assembles (MMDAs) and the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL).
The PUWU made this comment in reaction to remarks made by Mr Agyarko to a group of journalists and officials of the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA) after the inauguration of a seven-member ECG PSP Stakeholders’ Committee in Accra.
Mr Agyarko is reported to have expressed shock at the growing debt stock of ECG which he attributed to faulty metering system and avoidable employee recklessness.
According to the media reports, Mr Agyarko said the “ECG’s debt accumulation on a monthly basis is GH¢66 million. Every month, they add GH¢66 million to their cost. And if this happens in the next five years, what prevents the EOCO from laying you off?”
Responding to the issues raised by the minister, the PUWU said “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 the government has promised to pay the debt.”
The union explained that as at the end of 2016, the MMDAs debt stood at GH¢1,390,966,034.74, while for the first three months of 2017, the MMDA debts totalled GH¢226,967,736.08.
It said out of the total amount MMDAs owed the ECG, the government had paid GH¢18,133,575.17.
The statement noted that by the close of March 2017, the total debt, including that of GWCL was GH¢1,599,800,195.66 and described it as strange for Mr Agyarko to attribute the accumulation of debt to the recklessness of ECG employees.
“If there is any debt accumulation, then it is the direct action of government for non-payment of MMDA bills, and not any inaction on the part of ECG employees. There have been several instances where efforts to collect money owned by 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,” it said
US Embassy demands bills
Concerning Mr Agyarko’s claim that the American Embassy in Ghana has been demanding official bills from the ECG to enable it to pay its debt, but the ECG has not been able to provide the Embassy with bills, the union described that assertion as strange.
The statement explained that to the best of the knowledge of the ECG workers, the US Embassy did not owe ECG in terms of bills.
“So if they were not getting bills, would they have settled all their bills? We find the statement very unfortunate, and ask the minister to provide further details,” it said.
With respect to MTN owing ECG about GH¢35 million as asserted by the minister, the statement explained that the problem was basically an issue of a billing arrangement, adding that “these were some challenges with the initial CMS deployed and efforts are being made to correct this situation”.
According to the statement, MTN has over 1000 sites some of which were already being billed through the Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) system, so bills were read automatically from remote areas.
“It is the few areas which are not on the AMR that arrangements are being made to sort out the actual amounts that MTN has to pay, which some of the residential sites are being made to pay.”
The statement noted, however, that the billing anomaly had been identified and the corrections were being made, so it was not accurate to say that MTN owed that much and nothing was being done to collect the money.
It said the union was by its statement drawing the attention of the government to the fact that such pronouncements made by Mr Agyarko would not inure to the benefits of the company or Ghana, because eventually it would project a very weak company that would affect the PSP negotiation with any bidder.
“We think that the minister ought to look at the bigger picture and see how to position ECG as a company that can provide value for Ghana and for Ghanaians,” it said.