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Opinions of Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Columnist: Kwaku A. Danso

The sale or management contract of Ghana's electricity corporation, ECG

The report that the Nana Akufo-Addo government will not sell the Electricity Company of Ghana outright but retain 51% shares and sell the rest for $498 million (Ghanaweb May 23, 2017) is a most disappointing and wrong decision! Can we get a copy of the real CONTRACT agreement? Our Lawyer President obviously seem to have allowed politics to taint his decision as opposed to the best interest of the nation and people of Ghana!

Some 30 or 40 years ago, as a radical student this writer would perhaps have opposed the sale! However today, after three to four decades of our officials lying, stealing, mismanaging, and some of us suffering major losses from the poor electricity and water delivery, one should care less who is selling a reliable service in Ghana! Ghana should totally privatize ECG and hold whoever the buyer is strictly responsible for delivering a 99.95% reliability in delivery as found in say the US or UK.

As an electrical engineer myself, this writer estimates the unreliable supply and delivery of electricity has cost homeowners an estimate of $1-2 billion per year in damaged appliances and lost productivity over the last 13 years! This is in addition to the disincentive in any manufacturing enterprises! Who is so dumb to invest in a country where for over 13 years promises of electricity only leads to massive $600 million or more loans perhaps with funds diverted and no reliable service and nobody held responsible!

Ghanaians should remember history! We don't seem to learn! And that is why some people feel the intelligence of the average Ghanaian is lower, whiles in fact of the real story lies in leadership’s courage and integrity to make the right executive decisions for the nation!

1. We gave Ghana Telecom to the Malaysians (NDC-1) to manage and these people took high executive pay but were never able to improve on anything about Ghana Telecom.

- Then the Malaysian contract was abrogated, costing Ghana a major amount, and the contract given over to a Norwegian company by the NPP under Kufuor. The Chief Executives were collecting $1.5 million per month! No major improvement could be seen and in fact this writer had to write a strong letter to the MD of the Company about the quality of services, and copy President Kufuor which helped not to renew the contract.

Instead the company was sold to Vodafone which decided to focus on the cellular component. No major improvement has been made or felt on the land lines and workers training shows no appreciable improvement!

The cellular phone side of Vodafone was reported to have made profits of more than a billion dollars, even while competing against MTN, Tigo and other carriers. Today Ghana's offices have very poor or no land lines. This writer has enough experience in the last thirteen years to demonstrate the hopeless nature of the land line and Internet broadband service! The network equipment have not been upgraded with no contractual supervision or mandate by the NCA to do so!

2. Wasn't a similar contract given for management of Ghana Airways to a British company in the early 2000s that allowed members of the government get free air travel, and eventually GA was sold with debts of more than $150 million!

This was a major public theft and mismanagement that should have sent some Ghanaian executives to prison!

3. A similar contract of management was sold or given to Aqua Vitens Rand of South Africa to manage Water services! From 2005-2014 this writer can vouch the delivery of water in Accra, even in the affluent areas like East Legon, has increased only in so far as one has huge poly tanks and motors! Is that a modern standard?

Despite the massive $4.2 billion in loans for water, in places like the rich Kwahu towns of Nkawkaw, Abetifi to Pepease water delivery is still a major problem!

Other cities are reported with no water! So what was the reason for the sale but a mere "loan" as capital from the foreign company in exchange for collecting as much money as they can! One can add roads and highways in which massive World Bank loans of $4.2 billion in 1989-92 were diverted and Ghana left with potholes on highways in only 3 years!

The idea of government owning a service delivery company and managed by a foreign company is only a trick for government to get free service and not pay their bills! It is a shame in our government's lack of discipline and poor cash management.

The question is; why should others pay high taxes for those in government to enjoy free pay with vehicles and petrol, housing and other allowances while unable to demonstrate any value for the taxpayer and unable to manage even their bills! Is it not a public theft to sell part of a utility company so that for the next 20 years the government will not pay their bills while using the money to pay themselves?

Leadership involves making hard decisions and there is enough history for Nana to have learnt from. It is extremely disappointing and Nana Akufo-Addo and his team should bow their heads in shame in choosing to continue this undisciplined lifestyle and mis-management for our government while people suffer with poor water, electricity, residential roads with open sewage, dangerous highways, and phone networks in this modern age!