The Public Utilities Regulatory Commission, PURC on March 14 2023, commenced its second phase of nationwide Consumer Service Clinics (CSC) at Bolgatanga, Upper East Region. The Commission’s Regional Office, which has oversight responsibility for the North East Region of Ghana led the program, which gave consumers and utility service providers, a platform to lodge complaints on the quality of service provision by utility service providers (NEDCo and GWCL) in the two regions.
The chairman for the occasion NABA SIGRI BEWONG, Paramount Chief of Sekoti Traditional Area, and a retired Mining Engineer, underscored the importance of power and water to the local economy and socioeconomic development of the people of Upper East Region as well as its impact on the general economy. He called on both Consumers and Utility Service providers to take up their rights and responsibilities, in order to improve the quality of service delivery, complaints resolutions, and extension services for the benefit of the entire Upper East and North East regions.
Ing. Emmanuel Wayo Fiati, the Director of Water Services and Performance Monitoring at PURC, gave a welcome address on behalf of the Executive Secretary (Dr. Ishmael Ackah) of PURC. Ing. Fiati indicated that the Commission was happy in facilitating this Engagement christened “Bolgatanga Consumer Service Clinic”.
In giving the brief purpose of the Consumer Service Clinic, Ing. Fiati indicated that, in 2022, the Commission received tariff proposals from both the electric and water utilities requesting tariff adjustments. As part of the tariff approval process, the Commission provided platforms for the utilities in some major cities in the country to explain to consumers the need for a tariff adjustment.
At those fora/meetings, the Commission expected consumers to scientifically critique proposals submitted by the utilities. However, most (70%) of the questions asked by consumers were related to the quality of service. Examples included billing complaints, low voltages, pipe bursts, etc.
Based on the above information, the Commission decided after the major tariffs were approved in August 2022, to create platforms specifically for Consumers and utility Service providers to interact and bring out their complaints for redress. One such platform is what was witnessed in Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region. The Commission had already undertaken similar engagements in Kumasi, Koforidua, Ho, Cape Coast, and Sunyani.
This platform/forum is largely for the consumers to bring out their issues to the utilities for resolution.
Ing. Fiati took the opportunity to call on consumers to make use of the consumer service clinic to help resolve their complaints and not to hesitate in reaching out to the Commission to still resolve their complaints.
The Director, of Regional Operations of 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 software in calculating their consumption and rates in order to avoid complaints relating to under billing and overbilling.
The Guest of Honor and Upper East Regional Minister, Hon. Stephen Yakubu was grateful to the Board and Management of the Commission for opening an office in Upper East Region. He noted that, this has given impetus to the decentralization of the Commission’s. According to Hon. Yakubu, “Power is key to the Development of Upper East and the Country at large”, and that, improving access to electricity and Water will serve as the engine of growth for the political and socio-economic development of the Region.
Hon. Yakubu, whiles highly commending NEDCo and GWCL for the good work done so far, also urged the Utilities to be more proactive as they seek solution to their technical, commercial, and operational challenges.
Alhaji Jabaru also explained the Net Metering Reckoner which will help customer generators in determining their electricity charges for imports and exports of electricity with the distribution grid. 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.
The Upper East Regional Office of the Commission was established in January 2022, and has executed the following programmes over the past 12 months; complaints management, district or out station monitoring, public education, community monitoring, industrial monitoring, and prepaid vending centre monitoring. The office indicated that, over the period, the Commission received and resolved seven hundred and five (705) complaints, which were lodged against the Northern Electricity Distribution Company (NEDCo), and Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL).
The Commission also took the opportunity to give a presentation to consumers on the Commission’s complaint resolution procedure, and the impact of the Commission’s presence on both consumers and utility service providers.
The occasion brought together stakeholders from utility service providers within the Upper East region, including; Traditional leaders, Religious leaders, Assembly Members from both Upper East and North East regions, a delegation of security service personnel, civil society organisations, market women, hairdressers, barbers, beauticians, tailors, media, the Municipal Chief Executive for Bolga East (Hon. David Akolgo Amoah) and other Heads of Government Institutions.