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Opinions of Tuesday, 15 March 2005

Columnist: Asante, Danso A.

Ghana Telecom under Norwegian Management: How Efficient?

Is Ghana getting her money?s worth? Are we once again dissipating our much-needed tax revenue on yet another foreign management consultant which speaks of ?I will do? instead of ?I have done?? What efficiency has the Norwegians brought to Ghana Telecom that the Malaysians couldn?t bring?

These questions keep ?barking? at me anytime I call my landline and hear the voice ?the number you have dialed is currently unavailable please try again later?. For well over one month the GT landline in my house at Pankrono-Atimatim, a suburb of Kumasi, has broken down as a result of a car accident that damaged one of the service poles. Despite repeated complaints by customers affected by the breakdown of the pole, GT has done nothing to fix the problem; the pole is still down, the phones are out, but the bills somehow find their way to the mailbox?that is Ghana!

It took me three full days at the Atimatim school park to merely get registered as a customer at a cost of ?500,000 in February 2004. It took extra three days and regular follow-ups by my wife for the phone to be finally connected. More than a month and half after the connection, my calls were going to a different house, which has been mistakenly allocated the same telephone number according to GT. Yet again, our complaints as customers never yielded any speedy rectification of the problem.

Expectedly, my first bill came with charges of calls never made from my phone but by the earlier users of the number; something I predicted long before the bill came. GT?s reaction when complained: ?there is nothing we can do about it, you have to sort it out with the people who made the calls?- RIDICULOUS!

From my perspective as a customer, if these issues do not constitute inefficiency, then perhaps someone has to educate me on what inefficiency means.

Now, what bothers me most is not the disconnection per se (because I still manage to reach loved ones through spacefon) but the way the customer is treated in Ghana. It appears nobody gives a damn about the Ghanaian customer. Our utility companies in particular- Ghana Telecom, Electricity Corporation, and Ghana Water Company have little regard for the customers they serve. You get up in the morning, go to toilet and there is no water to flash it after paying your water bill, yet a pipe is broken somewhere and volumes of water is going wasted. Light goes on and off with no prior notification leaving electrical gadgets damaged and the customer, once again, helpless.

In spite of the persistent public complaints, these companies seem not in any hurry to improve efficiency and recognise that the customer is their greatest asset. They only talk about it. Even to pay your bills, you still have to endure the rudeness of ill-trained cashiers, most of whom have little understanding of the work they are doing. Any company that undervalues its customers with such impunity as our utility companies do is doomed to failure. No wonder they are all struggling to stay afloat!

To Ghana Telecom, what I would say is that some of us expect a better service from you than you have given us so far. I don?t intend to remind you that it is not enough to extend services without maintaining them; I?m sure you know that.

To the government and people of Ghana, we need to understand that the country will continue to lack the foreign investment that our past, present and future leaders have and will continue to be canvassing for if nothing is done to improve efficiency in our utility companies.

YES- interest rate is down, inflation is down, the cedi is relatively stable, but the investor also needs uninterrupted supply of power, water and telephone services among other things. Macro-economic stability alone is not enough- Mr. President!

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.