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Opinions of Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Columnist: Mawuena, Emmanuel Kwasi

Street meters: E.C.G, are we retrogressing?

The introduction of prepaid meters has come a long way in helping Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) to improve its debt recovery programme. Nevertheless, prepaid meters have only aided debt recovery from poor domestic customers as government departments and some corporate organisations remain on post paid meters and continue to owe huge debts. It is particularly worrying to hear of profit making private organisations owing ECG huge debts without any serious effort toward recovery. Are some people benefiting from this phenomenon in disguise? These challenges should however not be allowed to thwart the good motive behind the prepaid meters but should be encouraged to proceed further to all governmental departments as advocated by the late President Mills and re-echoed by his successor, President John Mahama. I also want to add here that these prepaid meters should go further to the castle, flagstaff house, parliament house and every single ‘powerful corner’ of this country.
Though the advent of prepaid meter is a welcome phenomenon, its latest development thus the emergence of street meters is becoming an issue of concern. This article takes a look at the situation where a range of household meters; for instance, eight are fixed on poles along streets. One then questions the rationale for these meters and marvels whether we are really progressing or retrogressing? To worsen matters, the ECG has not taken any serious steps to educate the public on these new meters. Probably, we are ignorant and need some education from ECG as it is done in every normal society when a change of this nature is taking place. But I presume we are far from such an ideal society. Moreover, in such a monopolistic market, perhaps customers mean nothing to ECG.
For many of us, it is difficult to rationalize this outlandish idea. The only hear say for introducing these meters is that clients are tempering with household meters. But has ECG taken customer concerns such as safety and convenience into account? It is convenient for customers to walk outside their houses during odd hours to recharge reserve credit? What about the difficulty in identifying one’s meter as all are clumped together? Besides, are these meters weather proof; and safe outdoors? There are already reports of fire outbreaks on these meters that easily extend to all other meters on a pole of location. Are we in anyway trying to continue the market fires on the streets and call on American investigators for a help that will yield no result? Clearly, there is lack of policy direction in the country which is manifesting in all areas of development. Though we have made some developmental strides as a country, it appears we still remain far behind the fasting ticking clock of the time. In this twenty first century where the world has become a global village facilitating sharing of best practices, knowledge and technology, it is expected that we tap into the universal knowledge base to improve our well being as a country. Unfortunately, Ghana appears to be woefully lagging behind in this regard.
To make things worse, these street meters are being installed with lots of inconveniences to customers. In late August, this year, residents of Darkuman were subjected to days of light out because they could not get credit for these new street meters as they were told to register their new meters for configuration before they could purchase credit. Where else can this happen than Ghana? What is pushing ECG to install these new meters when they know very well their system was not ready for clients to purchase credit? In Ghana, bad services like this go scot free without any charges of damages. It is not surprising therefore to see people take the law into their own hands to do the unthinkable.
I want to end by reiterating that it is the responsibility of ECG to justify and educate customers on these new meters. Otherwise, if they have nothing to tell us, then they should withdraw their plan to install these metres.
Long live ECG. Long live Ghana.

Emmanuel Kwasi Mawuena