As part of its nationwide complaints clinics, the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission on April 4, 2023, interacted with consumers and utility service providers in the Upper West regional capital of Wa.
This forms part of a conscious effort by the Commission, to bring to the doorstep of the consumer, a complaint desk, where various issues, bordering on service delivery of the regulated utilities were brought up for discussion, speedy resolution and appropriate responses to ensure satisfaction for consumers of water and electricity.
The Consumer Service Clinic was organised in collaboration with the regulated utilities in the region - the Northern Electricity Distribution Company Limited (NEDCo) and the Ghana Water company Limited (GWCL).
Participants at the programme included the clergy, Assembly men/women, security agencies, traditional leaders, the media and the general public.
The Chairman of the programme, Professor, Philip Duku Osei, who is the Vice Chancellor of SD Dombo University for Development and Business, in his acceptance remarks, expressed the importance of the value chain between NEDCo, GWCL and consumers.
The Chairman, further charged PURC to guarantee effective regulation so as to ensure value for money for tariffs paid by all consumers including residential and industrial consumers. This, he said, if done would ensure quality of service provision, which would be enjoyed by all.
Professor Duku Osei urged the Service providers, especially NEDCo to endeavour to resolve complaints received from consumers in a timely manner.
Mrs. Nancy Atiemo, the Director of Legal Services at the PURC, who stood in for the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Dr. Ishmael Ackah, said the Upper West regional office of the Commission was established to bring the services of the Commission closer to consumers and to frequently engage service providers on quality of service issues.
The Director Legal, further established that, the decentralisation strategy of the Commission was mainly to engage and educate both service providers and consumers on their rights and responsibilities as well as the complaints filing procedures of the Commission.
The Legal Director, reiterated the Commission’s commitment to value for money and empowerment of the consumer to build their knowledge on utility regulation, whiles ensuring transparency and cordiality between consumers and service providers.
The Guest of Honour, Saeed Abdul Shakur, who is the Regional State Attorney of Upper West Region in his remarks, commended the Commission for doing a great job in-spite of the difficulty in regulating a pampered consumer who sometimes refuses to pay their utility bills, but expects quality service delivery from the service providers. He urged consumers to always pay their bills on time to avoid disconnection.
Lawyer Saeed, praised the Commission, for its role in extending utility service provision - water and electricity – to consumers for the last twenty-five (25) years and urged the Commission to do more.
The Director of Regional Operations and Consumer Services at PURC, Alhaji Jabaru Abukari, took participants through the tariff Reckoner, which was developed by the Commission and demonstrated its accuracy in calculating consumers consumptions per purchase - cash and unit purchases.
Alhaji Abukari indicated that, the Reckoner was developed to enhance transparency and for consumers to know how much they were to pay for water and electricity. He encouraged consumers to download the software from google play store or AppStore.
He refuted the notion by some consumers that, units or purchases made at the NEDCo vending points lasted more than that of the private venders. He stated that, “it is the same software, that is used across board” .
The Upper West Regional Distribution Manager of GWCL, Cletus Dieku on his part, educated participants on the procedures for a new service connection, complaints filing procedures of GWCL and the existing and new tariff structures. He noted some challenges such as the operations of illegal mining activities (galamsey), which adversely affects operations of GWCL in water treatment. He indicated that, only 30% of the production capacity is being utilised and encouraged consumers to take advantage of the available capacities to enable the service provider to extend its services to consumers within the region. Mr. Dieku noted that, over the years, GWCL has significantly increased extension of pipelines to its customers and served them as well.
The Upper West Regional Area manager of NEDCo Francis Yomesor and Team educated consumers on their operations and cautioned customers to desist from dealing with middle men but rather submit completed forms by themselves anytime they wanted new service connections, separate meters, billing issues and other customer related issues.
He enumerated some challenges such as the lack of Special Load Tariff customers in the region, inadequate electricity meters, energy theft and loses, burning of electric poles and transformers. NEDCo made a clarion call to the various communities to desist from such acts but rather protect the various electricity poles to prevent long outage durations in their various communities.
Both utility companies, (GWCL & NEDCo) answered questions and complaints posed to them by consumers in a cordial environment.