The Public Utilities Regulatory Commission, PURC on Thursday, March 16, 2023, organised its Consumer Service Clinic (CSC) in Tamale. This CSC was organised to cover both the Northern and Savannah Regions of Ghana, and serves as part of the Commission’s nationwide planned and deliberate efforts to afford consumers and utility service providers a platform to lodge complaints on the quality of service in the regions.
The Chairman of the occasion, Choggu Naa Mahamadu Alhassan II, Chief of Choggu Traditional Area in his opening remarks, indicated that, PURC among other things, examines and approves rates chargeable by utility service providers, protects the interest of consumers and utility service providers, and monitors standards of performance for the provision of services.
The Chairman, pleaded with Service providers to be consumer friendly. He noted that, “the problem associated with water and electricity is the difficulty of acquiring meters, thereby making profitable, trading in the black market. Lack of respect for consumers, when they seek explanations from utility service providers is very worrying”. The Chairman, further pleaded with all stakeholders to pay attention to the presentations from the PURC, NEDCo, and GWCL and to seek clarification when necessary. He further indicated that, the CSC programme would increase customers’ understanding of the operations of the PURC and the utility service providers.
Naa Mahamadu Alhassan II emphasized the need for utility service providers in the region, to respect traditional leaders across their operational areas, and consult more stakeholders about their operations, and to consult more, instead of engaging in brute force by using security personnel to intimidate the very customers they are supposed to serve.
The Executive Secretary of the Commission, Dr. Ishmael Ackah in his welcome address, indicated that based on the feedback from Public Hearings of the Major Tariff review in 2022, and the aftermath of its approval in September 2022, the Commission decided to create platforms specifically for Consumers and utility Service providers to bring out their complaints. The Commission has already undertaken similar engagements in Kumasi, Koforidua, Ho, Cape Coast, Sunyani, and Bolgatanga.
According to Dr. Ackah, PURC, acts as a referee between the utility service providers, who invest their financial resources and consumers who pay for the services. “Our interest as a Commission is to strike a fair balance between the interest of these very important stakeholders” he said.
In line with section 31 of the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission Act, 1997 (Act 538), Dr. Ackah inaugurated the Consumer Services Committee for the Savannah Region, which is to be based in Damango. Members of the Committee are; Mr. B. A. Jimmah, Mr, Isaac Sheini Gunu, Madam Rose Mark Lermu, Mr. Abubakari Rashid, and Mr. Abdul Naiser Fuseinu. The Committee among other functions is; to make representations to, and consult with the regulated public utilities, on matters that affect consumers in their areas of jurisdiction; to keep under constant review, issues affecting the interests of consumers; to educate customers on their rights, and responsibilities with respect to utility services provision and on the conservation of utility services; to advise the Commission on matters relating to utility services and matters affecting customers referred to the Committee; to monitor the performance of utilities in the location of the Committee;
The Director, Regional Operations and Consumer Services of the PURC, Alhaji Abukari Jabaru, took time to walk consumers and utility service providers through the Commission’s recently launched Tariff Reckoner and called on them to make good use of the reckoner in calculating their consumption. This will minimize complaints relating to under billing and overbilling.
Alhaji Jabaru also explained the Net Metering Reckoner which will help customer-generators determine their electricity charges for imports and exports of electricity into the distribution network. Customer generators are electricity distribution customers who have installed solar photovoltaics (PV) or wind turbines to periodically supply excess power generated to the grid. Implementation of the app is based on the PURC Net Metering Guidelines, which has been published on the PURC website. Alhaji Jabaru noted that the Commission also has WhatsApp platforms with Honourable Assembly members and other stakeholders for swift resolution of consumer complaints. He further had personal engagements with a cross-section of stakeholders to further clarify responses given on a wide range of issues.
As part of the Commission’s year of ‘Operational efficiency’, the Northern Regional Office has adopted the “Big Rescue Agenda”, which is aimed at assisting Utility Service Providers, to reduce their commercial losses (illegal connections and non-payment of bills) and also make them more efficient to better serve Consumers.
Present at the programme were; the Coalition of Concerned Smart Prepaid Users (CCSPU), Dagbon Youth Association, Tamale Youth Parliament, Civil and Local Government Staff Association, Ghana (CLOGSAG), National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Hoteliers Association, Third Party Vendors, Sawmills Association Assembly members from across the regions, chiefs, utility service providers, the clergy, and staff of the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission.