General News of Saturday, 2 November 2013
Source: Daily Graphic
The Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) has agreed to engage stakeholders, especially organised labour, on issues regarding the recent tariff increases.
According to the commission, that had been necessitated by the fact that arguments surrounding the increment had become a lengthened dispute which needed to be resolved amicably.
The Director of External Affairs and Public Relations at the commission, Nana Yaa Jantuah, told the Daily Graphic that although the grievances directed at the government by organised labour were misplaced and amounted to an interference in the work of the commission, the PURC was ready to dialogue with the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and its stakeholder bodies on the way forward.
She indicated that the law setting up the commission, with regard to the guidelines on electricity and water tariff adjustment, outlined procedures whereby groups, bodies or individuals could present their grievances regarding tariff increment.
“We wish to state emphatically that the commission is the only body mandated by law to adjust tariffs in the country and any such interference by the government or anybody may amount to ambushing the independence of the commission,” Ms Jantuah said.
She was, however, of the view that any plans of reviewing the tariffs downwards to meet the demands of organised labour might further cripple the operations of utility service providers.
She assured consumers that the PURC was committed to ensuring the delivery of the highest quality of service, while at the same time balancing the interest of consumers and further assuring the financial viability and integrity of service providers.
The TUC, which has threatened to go on a nationwide strike on November 18 if the government and the PURC maintain their position on the tariff increment, has, on the other hand, indicated its preparedness to dialogue with the PURC.
When contacted, Mr Kofi Asamoah, the Secretary General of the TUC, told the Daily Graphic in an interview that organised labour had received a letter of invitation from the PURC to attend a meeting next Tuesday.
According to him, the November 18 strike would be the most appropriate measure in compelling the government to heed calls for an immediate reduction as a means of mitigating the impact the tariffs had on the public.
“In spite of the fact that the commission had taken an entrenched position on the issues we have raised so far, our proposal for payments to be staggered must be met.
“We are anxious that the conclusions from Tuesday’s meeting will lead to the acceptance and implementation of our proposal,” Mr Asamoah added.
In a related development, the government has welcomed the decision by the PURC and organised labour to have a discussion on the recent increases in utility prices, reports Musah Yahaya Jafaru.
It, however, urged organised labour to put on hold its intended strike to create a friendly environment before it went into the discussion. The Minister of Information and Media Relations, Mr Mahama Ayariga, expressed these sentiments at a media briefing at the Flagstaff House, Kanda in Accra yesterday.
Mr Ayariga affirmed the government's resolve to respect the independence of the PURC, saying, "We remain committed to preserving the independence of the PURC." He said the law establishing the PURC allowed for it to hold discussions with stakeholders.
According to him, the decision by organised labour to engage the commission in a dialogue "is a positive development".
Mr Ayariga said as organised labour prepared to engage with the PURC, it was crucial for the group not to go into that dialogue in an unfriendly environment, hence the need to relegate the planned strike to the background. He stressed that it was important for organised labour to engage more with the PURC, instead of threatening the government with a strike.
Referring to the recent Gallup poll report that placed Ghana as the third most corrupt country among countries with highest press freedom, Mr Ayariga said it was not a true representation of the situation.
That, he said, was because the survey asked only 1,000 people about their perception of corruption and indicated that that was not a true representation of the 25 million Ghanaians.
The minister said the government was determined to fight corruption, while it believed in the rule of law and respect for due process.
Mr Ayariga expressed worry over the negative image that some social commentators created about Ghana in their discussions and analyses in the media. He said as the government encouraged freedom of speech, it also expected commentators to have respect for facts to reflect the true situation on the ground.
Mr Ayariga said the government had handed over to the National Chairman of the New Patriotic Party, Mr Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, the bungalow he bought when he was a minister of state because it was the decision of the court. “Once the court has decided, you might have a strong disagreement but you have the responsibility to comply with the decision,” he added.