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Opinions of Monday, 4 July 2016

Columnist: Ghanaian Chronicle

Government must pay bills owed ECG, period!

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The Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) has started massive disconnection of power to institutions and agencies that owe them huge sums of money. Yesterday, there were media reports that power had been disconnected to the newly constructed Cape Coast Sports stadium for owing in excess of GH 700, 000.

Earlier in the month, some of the country's polytechnics were disconnected by the power distribution company for non-payment of bills. The company is even threatening to disconnect power to health facilities who owe them.

The government, through the Power Ministry, about two months ago pleaded with the ECG to stop disconnecting power to hospitals and educational institutions owned by the state.

The electricity company appears to have overlooked that order, as it continues to disconnect power to some of the polytechnics and government agencies. Though this is painful, it is a bitter pill the affected institutions have to swallow. The ECG has always come under public criticisms for failing to collect revenues from its customers.

In an attempt to deal with the situation, pre-paid meters were piloted and now deployed on large scale throughout the country. Unfortunately, most of our educational institutions and health facilities are still on post paid meters – meaning they consume the power before making payments for what they have consumed.

Regrettably, payment of the bills has become difficult for some of these institutions. The government, which pleaded with the ECG to soften its stance on them, is also not releasing the funds to offset the debt.

On the last check, it was revealed that the government alone owed the ECG more than GH500 million in electricity bills. The equipment being used by the power company is capital intensive and they need to raise the needed dollars to be able to import these equipment.

Without the payment of the bills, how do we, as Ghanaians, expect the ECG to render quality service to us? As the adage goes, he who calls for equity must come with clean hands. If the people of Ghana want the ECG to perform well, then we must also be prepared to pay our bills.

The government has always been talking about inefficiency at the ECG, which has even necessitated the process for partial privatization of the company, yet the same government owes the company more than the GH500 million, which we have already quoted.

It is based on all these that, The Chronicle fully supports the exercise the ECG has embarked upon to retrieve its revenues. If the government thinks it is embarrassing for power to hospitals to be disconnected, it must do the proper thing – pay all its indebtedness.

Individuals who owe must also endeavour to pay their bills to ensure efficient distribution of power. Until this is done, no one can blame the ECG for poor services. The Chronicle is equally advising the ECG management to also ensure that all the bills it is collecting in the form of arrears are properly utilized to the benefit of their customers.

This is not the time to be paying fat salaries when the customers who are making the revenue available are not deriving maximum benefits from the amount they are paying.