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General News of Saturday, 17 October 2015

Source: Daily Guide

Power Minister in trouble over reckless comment

Power Minister - Dr Kwabena Donkor Power Minister - Dr Kwabena Donkor

Power Minister Dr Kwabena Donkor’s tantrums appear to have landed him in hot waters.

He was reported in the media early this week as saying, “If President Mahama says dumsor will be over very soon, why don’t you ask him? Am I his spokesman?”

The minister’s hostile posture and the flippant manner in which he answers questions on the protracted energy crisis have attracted the ire of the public and ruling party activists, with a call on the appointing authority to sack him.

National Democratic Congress (NDC) members are at pain with the minister’s disrespectful comments directed at the party’s leader – President John Mahama.

When President Mahama was recently asked about the latest on the power crisis, he was categorical that his power minister was preparing to come out with the specific date on which dumsor was expected to end.

However, Dr Donkor went berserk live on a Kumasi-based radio station, Ash FM, when he was reminded that the president had said he (minister) had the final date on which the dumsor was going to end once and for all.

Exchanging Banters

Journalist: Anyway, we are also reading from the newspapers that you are going to announce an end to dumsor very soon, according to the president.

Minister: Have I said that? Have you heard that from my mouth?

Journalist: No, according to the president.

Minister: So why don’t you ask him (president); am I his spokesperson?

Journalist: But Honourable, he mentioned your name.

Minister: Where? When? I haven’t read the paper. I am in the hospital right now.

Bold Promise

Dr Donkor, on assumption of office in the newly-created ministry of power, said he would quit as minister if dumsor did not end by the end of 2015.

“At least the end of the year is December so you can hold me to that…Yes I will resign,” he told Joy FM and later reiterated his resolve to quit if the energy crisis persisted beyond 2015 on other networks, saying that he was putting his reputation on the line.

At the inauguration of three different boards for the Volta River Authority (VRA) subsidiary companies, including a real estate company, schools and health facilities in May, Dr Donkor repeated, “We would fix this problem, and I have indicated that come 1st January, 2016 if there is still load shedding, I will not sit in this chair; I would have failed and I will sack myself before anyone sacks me.”

His recent flippant answers to the energy crisis appear to suggest that he is now regretting promising to resign if the situation persisted by December, since his reputation is firmly on the line.

The energy crisis appears to have subsided lately because of rising water levels in the Akosombo dam where hydro generation has gone up a bit.

The Volta River Authority, the power generating company, is still facing problems concerning crude oil and gas purchase with its $1.3 billion indebtedness.

Nigeria Gas, suppliers of gas to Ghana, is threatening to cut supply by today if VRA fails to pay its over $182 million debt.

Dr Donkor was dispatched to Nigeria on Wednesday to hold crisis meeting with the Nigerian company in order not to plunge the whole country into total darkness.

No Hope

All indications are that the power crisis will not end in 2015 after several failed promises by the NDC government.

The power barge due to arrive by November can produce only 125 megawatts, which may not be adequate to solve the problem.

Some experts have said that Ghana’s energy problem is not about generation but is due to lack of funds needed to finance the powering of the various plants.

Installed Capacity

Ghana’s installed energy capacity is believed to be far in excess of what the whole country needs, but the mismanagement of the sector, coupled with lack of funds, are the main issues militating against it.

Nigeria Debt

The latest threat by Nigeria to cut gas supply to Ghana for non-payment of debt is putting more pressure on the government.

Reports say Nigeria has increased its capacity, especially in gas production, since President Muhamadu Buhari personally took charge of the petroleum ministry over there and the West African neighbour is reported to be ready to give more gas to Ghana if only the country can pay for it.

However, Ghana appears to lack the ability to pay for the gas.

N-Gas warned it would cut supply by 70% today due to the VRA’s indebtedness to the two companies.

The VRA owes the West Africa Gas Pipeline Company (WAPco) $103 million, with the balance of $78 million being owed to N-Gas and the other parties in the gas supply chain.

Since August 2014 VRA has received natural gas and pipeline-related transportation services totalling $231 million through WAPco, but has paid only $50 million of the amount.

PURC Pressure

In spite of the inefficacies in the system, coupled with harsh economic conditions, the Mahama-led NDC government surreptitiously put pressure on the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) to increase utility tariffs, especially electricity.

According to the Managing Director of WAPco, Walter Perez, cabinet had already directed the utility regulator to approve the increment of tariffs to enable the service providers to settle the debt, even though government owes ECG GH¢1.5 billion and VRA over GH¢1 billion in arrears.

“It’s a tough decision for the president to make because ultimately it will mean that the consumer will have to pay more for power,…If he is not able to do that and the country is not able to do that then things really will fall apart,” Walter Perez said at a press conference to set the records straight on the issue on Wednesday.

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