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General News of Saturday, 25 July 2020

Source: The Herald Ghana

The Herald Ghana: GWCL silent on Akufo-Addo’s election freebees

President Nana Akufo-Addo President Nana Akufo-Addo

From Free Senior High School (SHS) which is costing taxpayers over GHS3 billion, the Akufo-Addo government has announced another three months of free water and electricity supply in the COVID-19 relief package for the citizenry.

But many are beginning to see the move as a ploy to entice Ghanaian voters, who will lineup in long queue less than five months, precisely December 7, 2020, to determine whether President Akufo-Addo, has lived up to his 2016 promises.

Instructively, Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) couldn't wait for the free water initiative announced in April, by President Akufo-Addo, following the lockdown in Accra and Kumasi due to the COVID-19 pandemic to end as the company had in a statement dated June 29, 2020, announced the end of the initiative, due to loss of income.

The Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, who announced this during his Mid-year Budget review presented to Parliament on Thursday, claimed the free water and electricity, is because the government puts the concerns and aspirations of the ordinary Ghanaian first.

"That is also why we further reduced electricity prices by half and completely provided potable water for free for everybody since March this year. And we will extend it for another three months," he told Parliament, however, GWCL is yet to issue another statement in respect of the latest directive from the government.

GWCL has always mentioned low revenue as part of the reasons, why it cannot send water to various parts of the country.

Residences with pipelines get to suffer water rationing in sometimes three to four times in a week as a result of lack of money to purchase fuel to power its generators.

It is unclear, what the free water for another three months, will do to the company in terms of the supply, repair works, administrative expenses among others.

President Akufo-Addo had said the decision was part of additional measures being taken by the government to mitigate the impact the outbreak of the virus was having on the public.

The decision to absorb water bills for all Ghanaians for April, May and June, followed complaints of lack of portable drinking water in many communities affected by the three-week lockdown.

The GWCL statement has said "the month of June marks the end of the Governments directive to the Ghana Water Company Limited to serve Ghanaians with water for free as part of measures to curb the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers of GWCL must please note, that from hence, the payment of water bills will be the responsibility of the customer. The Minister of Sanitation and Water Resources, and the Management of Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) therefore wish to inform consumers and the general public that the last day of June 2020, officially ends the free water delivery".

But announcing yet another package for the citizenry, Mr Ofori-Atta, said it was meant to ease the burden of the virus which has wreaked havoc the world over, explaining that the free water initiative would be for all water consumers, while the electricity supply would be limited to only lifeline consumers.

"It takes a caring government of the people, and with that, I mean, a Government of all the people, to offer cost-free water to all across the country: representing all domestic and commercial customers in Ghana for three months.

"It takes a caring government to be for the people and for business, large and small, to choose to subsidise electricity consumption by 50 per cent to 4,086,286 households and 686,522 businesses at a cost of ���¢1.02 billion in three months. And we will extend the coverage for lifeline customers for another three months," Ken Ofori-Atta said.

But the GWCL statement signed by Stanley Martey, the company's Chief Manager in-charge of Public Relations and Communications, had assured: "customers that, meter readers, and all frontline staff, will continue to adhere and practice in full, all the protocols to protect themselves and our cherished customers".

This, it said, include "cladding themselves in full GWCL apparel, identity cards, personal sanitizers and face masks, before accessing their premises to read the meters".

The statement asked that "Landlords and landladies can revert to the arrangements with tenants prior to the free water delivery" adding "Water Vendors can/must resume their normal business after the last meter readings in June 2020".

It said disconnected Customers who were reconnected to enable them to enjoy the free water during the period, must as a matter of urgency pay their arrears to remain connected while "disconnected customers will remain disconnected until their arrears are settled in full before their supply will be reinstated".

The management of GWLC whilst expressing its appreciation to all agencies who supported the free water delivery and also offering a "Special appreciation to Government for the kind gesture towards Ghanaians", announced that "all GWCL collection/pay points are opened during normal working hours and Customers can also pay their bills via mobile money channels with all the telecommunications networks".

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