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General News of Saturday, 28 January 2012

Source: Anas Aremeyaw Anas

The ECG Board: Who Took What?

The President’s Assignment – The Final Installment (PHASE 5)

Anas Aremeyaw Anas reports, Electro-Volta House 5th floor, Accra

To identify the strength and weaknesses of the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), the TIGER eye team after uncovering the rot at the lower levels, hopped into the board room to see what was happening there . We stationed ourselves within the swanky, well furnished and air conditioned walls of the ECG Boardroom overlooking the Independence Square and the bustling seashore. All decisions that affect the company are made here; in that room, our power supply issues are tabled and discussed by board members. Hundreds of deals are scrutinized, analyzed and finalized to ensure that the Ghanaian tax payers’ money is used judiciously, the ECG gets its materials and services from here. The board was to play a supervisory role over ECG management, headed by the Managing Director (MD), who by default is also a member of the board. But more often than not we have picked up signals of dissenting voices within management relative to some board decisions. Two major areas that the now reconstituted board involved themselves actively were; the restructuring efforts of the company and instituting the Annual General Meeting (AGM) at which the ECG paid dividends to the Government. The last board chairman emphasized the need for restructuring the ECG in order to pluck and plant the entity into the company mode, where it is made accountable to all its stakeholders. The problem we gathered while nosing around the boardroom was the back and forth between the Ministry of Energy, the board and management relative to the restructuring plans undertaken by the board. We gather that the Energy Minister advised that the board gets a consultant to study the ECG structure and proffer modern leadership styles; at least so that he could make reference to a document when asked what went into the restructuring. This was after the Minister had given verbal instructions to the Acting MD to tell the board to halt the restructuring efforts, it did not sit well with the board who went ahead to create other directorates and appoint directors to those new offices. Our difficulty however was whether the consultant’ (one Kwame Asante's) preliminary report was copied to the Minister of Energy; especially as we were told that it was Minister who prescribed the consultant. In an interview with the Chairman, Dr. Kwaku Osafo, cognizant of the challenges that comes with ‘change’ within a system as panoramic as the ECG, admits dissenting voices within management and staff; he however insisted that the restructuring was absolutely of the essence. At the Electro-Volta House, we realized that the ECG board room was a bustling place where a myriad of activities were almost always going on. The team had scores of contract documents to look at, be they on metering contracts, mobile substations, communiqués from the board to management and staff, tender documents on service poles amongst several other stacks of documentation. As the team kept scouring through documents on the many shelves at the Electro-Volta boardrooms, we came across the appointment letters of the major policy makers within Ghana’s power supply network and got access to the remuneration for these board members. These members by records in our possession were by what they accrue monthly, enjoying a part time job, sitting in the comfort of the boardroom and taking policy level decisions concerning the power that Ghana uses as a nation. Upon analysis of internal memoranda under the subject: FEES FOR BOARD MEMBERS, a striking element that could not escape our attention was the seeming jostle for superiority over which board member raked in more cash each month. Meanwhile, the ex chairman in an interview spoke about how hard members of the board worked to justify the amounts that each member took, fellow board member Allotey reiterated the point about how hard he personally had worked to retrieve ECG cash locked up . Different sums of board fees were paid out to board members at the end of each month. These monies are paid NET OF TAX either by cash or cheque. But most of these board members preferred the CASH option. The fixed monthly board fees as at January, was pegged at GH¢ 750 and GH¢ 975 for members and the chairman respectively. That amount was increased by GH¢ 225 from February till the reconstitution of the board at November 2011. So the board chairman earned GH¢ 1,267.50 as against members GH¢ 975. The board chairman by in principle always earned 25% more that what members took as board fees Board sitting allowance for members was GH¢ 300 and GH¢ 400 chairman. Each member of the board was also entitled to monthly electricity subsidy of GH¢ 278 for members and GH¢ 385 (Chairman) All members resident outside Accra, had their transport to and from their regions catered for by the ECG. The calculation of how much a member took for transport was 0.60p increased to 0.70p based on every kilometer travelled. The distance from Cape Coast to Accra for Board Member, Bernard Allotey Jacobs was 288km which translated to GH¢ 202. From Kumasi, Kwabena Adjei Bambaata was paid for trip of 540km adding up to GH¢ 378. Mr Sumani Nayina however was paid GH¢ 921 based on a kilometric calculation of 1,316km by 0.70pesewas. Having made the journey to Accra, their accommodation of these members, meant that each member had to be paid GH¢ 300 stipend per night on board duties. On the subject of the per diems paid members attending workshops, it also oscillated between GH¢ 375 for members and GH¢ 500 for the chairman. Another facility paid exclusively to the Board Chairman since July 2011 was Mobile phone units of GH¢ 200 each month. The different engagements board members attended for which they were paid monies relative to sitting allowance, per diem and in the case of others transport and accommodation allowance were; Board Meetings (at least twice a month) Welfare Committee meeting Finance Committee Meeting Tender Committee Meeting Technical Committee Meeting Emergency Board Meeting Board Activities Meeting with the Minister Workshops Interview Panel Meeting with Identifiable bodies Inspection of Projects, not forgetting their Trips abroad on board duties The highest earning board member per month from January to November 2011 were; In January, Uncle Allotey Jacobs, managed to lead the list having collected monies amounting to GH¢ 5,343.00 before being paid a supplementary fee of GH¢ 3,865; in total Allotey Jacobs was paid an amount of GH¢ 9,208.00p for the month of January. Come February, Allotey was upstaged by board chairman Kwaku Osafo, whose GH¢ 8, 023 months’ total stood way above his other colleagues. With GH¢ 8,172 as his total for the month of March, Kwabena Adjei alias Bombata, clinched the top prize. In April, Stephen Sumani Nayina, entered the ECG board in grand style, like Usain Bolt on the tracks, he smashed all records of the previous months and set a new record with GH¢ 9,416.00p, as the highest a member of the ECG board claimed in just 30 days of part time service to Mother Ghana. Uncle Allotey staged a comeback to the top in May with GH¢ 6,890.00p payment as a board member. For the next six straight months till the reconstitution of the board, Stephen Sumani Nanyina was the star performer, receiving the highest sums from July through to November 2011. The honorable board member was paid GH¢ 8736 for the month of June, before signing for GH¢ 9,282, GH¢ 9,296 and GH¢ 9,256 for the months of July, August and September respectively. The board’s record board fee payment was chalked when Mr. Nayina grossed GH¢ 11,867, for a packed month of activities and meetings on the ECG board. That amount fell to GH¢ 9,296 in November. Worthy of note however are three members of the board, whose totals were very modest comparative to others: they are Samuel Cudjoe, Barima Kwame Nkyi XII and Hon Dr. Nii Oakley Quaye-Kumah; all of whose spending ranged between GH¢ 2000 - 3000. The TOTALS for each member over the period spanning January 2011 to November 2011 stands as follows: Kwabena Adjei Bambaata GH¢ 77,237 Stephen Sumani Nayina GH¢ 71,719 Bernard Allotey Jacobs GH¢ 68,836 Dr. Kwaku Osafo GH¢ 57,785 Samuel Cudjoe GH¢ 29,551 Barima Kwame Nkyi XII GH¢ 28,222 Nii Oakley Quaye Kumah GH¢ 26,490.80 Anthony Gyampo GH¢ 14,030.80 NOTE: with the activity based earning of the board, the three top earners as indicated are members living outside of Accra: to which end they are paid transport and accommodation fees. Mr Gyampo’s figures comprise two months earnings because he assumed acting Managing Director status of the company after the last MD left, and by that was been paid as an Acting MD of ECG. Mr. Nayina also served for a total of eight months before its activities were halted in November 2011. In total, GH¢ 373,871.60, equivalent to US$ 249,247.73 was paid out to members of the ECG board for 11 month period. "If these amounts are paid to leaders of the company at policy level; it is well within our rights as Ghanaians to demand more from the ECG board," an insider within ECG asked In an era of austerity when some other boards of state enterprises meet twice a year, at worst quarterly, what was in it for ECG board to meet every time? The former board chairman, Dr. Kwaku Osafo, proffers an answer when he insists that with the deluge of contracts that have to be looked at and worked on, a financially bustling area like the ECG cannot meet once in say three months. Every member of the board is supposed to serve on a number of Board Committees, just two we gather, except in the case of the Chairman and MD who are allowed to be on more board committees. The boards’ erratic and short term loans have also been another cause for worry, the suppliers’ credit debt currently stands at some $ 91 million dollars at the time the board was reconstituted. Since the exit of the last MD who had turned down an extension of his mandate, ECG has been without a substantive head, with the Acting MD being a person that the last board put into that critical role to act for over seven months.
A senior official of the World Bank, Sunil Mathrani describes an ECG without an MD aptly as follows; “the MD is the pilot in the cockpit of the plane. If you don’t have leadership from the MD, then clearly, the thing is on autopilot. It is just cruising along with minimum kind of effort. People are in a wait-and-see mode. People are not going to take any major initiatives when you don’t know who is going to be the next MD.”
Without a shred of doubt, the past and present governments have done mother Ghana a great disservice by the way they have conducted themselves within the power sector, signing deals without recourse to any proper feasibility studies and more disturbingly pushing aside long term loan facilities to pay huge cash sums as was the case in the previous government. It is mother Ghana who has been left for the worse in all these shady transactions. A major sticking point to the last power crisis Ghana experienced, was the repurchase of the Volta Aluminum Company (VALCO). At what price did the erstwhile government decide to enter the agreement with the American owners, for what did the erstwhile government agree to buy back the 40-year-old VALCO? In a clear case of double jeopardy, the then Government had to force the Volta River Authority (VRA) to power VALCO ostensibly to create jobs and by so doing justify the purchase they had made way back in 2005. This move worsened the power crisis of 2006 – 2007. Volta River Authority (VRA) did allow VALCO to operate one of their five machines, with assurances that if the rains were good, a second machine would have to be run. In the midst of all these, records have it that VALCO pays far less than what the ECG pays on the same power, ECG as the sole power distributors took from the Volta River Authority (VRA). Whiles the average Ghanaian and business struggled with mounting ECG bills, the very big mining companies, who are bulk consumers and took their power directly from the VRA. We discovered that they were paying highly subsidized rates for power, even with that, they still defaulted in their accounts with the ECG. We are in the know of an administrative fiat from the Energy Commission that the VRA should charge relatively lower power rates comparative to ECG, although ECG has far more customers than VRA. Multinationals were paying comparatively higher rates in neighbouring West African countries where they operated, why then do they seem to have a field day in the case of ECG, somebody we insist must be sleeping on their job.
Let none think that the TIGER would completely exit the ECG arena, in the interest of social justice, we shall continue to hover around ECG branches and continue to expose the rot, stench and brazen corruption on the part of all involved. We are well aware of houses in high residential areas, whose electricity consumption is without any bill whatsoever for years. We shall be after Special Load Tariff defaulters who refuse to settle their bills. We are aware of a workshop in Ashanti West, opposite the Kumasi Catering Rest House, where real illegal deals are taking place under the cover of darkness, we would shine light on the nefarious acts soon. We know of how e-cash meter boxes have been covered with tarpaulin at the Nungua and Kwabenya Regions of the ECG, why and for what; we would tell you soon. In the wake of our infamous defaulters’ list, many companies were quick and smart enough to sneak into the ECG and settle their bills, before coming out to find ways of making up for their shirked responsibility.
The story however is different for mobile telecommunication giants, MTN, who have come out without much proof to challenge their indebtedness STAY TUNED AS WE UNRAVEL MTN AND THEIR INDEBTEDNESS BOOK YOUR COPIES NEXT WEEK AS WE WORK ON THE MOBILE TELECOM GIANTS, MTN. Make sure you catch PHASES 1 and 2 of the President’s Assignment on any of the local TV networks (Satellite and Terrestrial).

Till then; LIGHTS OUT and God Bless Our Homeland GHANA.

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