In a series write-up, Nafisa Mohammed reviews state-owned institutions in Ghana and how they are serving the nation...or maybe not. Part 1 (The ECG S
In a series write-up, Nafisa Mohammed reviews state-owned institutions in Ghana and how they are serving the nation…or maybe not.
Part 1 (The ECG Saga)
The Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) is synonymous to ‘light’ in Ghana. Both are not usually talked of without being accompanied by words like ‘dumsor’ and ‘dumdum’. For the sake of non-Ghanaians, ‘dumsor’ is the amalgamation of the Twi language equivalent of ‘off-on’, whereas ‘dumdum’ is ‘off-off’. Suffice to say that by the above explanation of those words, non-Ghanaians are beginning to guess why ECG has those words either prefixing or affixing its mention.
Now most people may not know this, but when it comes to electricity power in Ghana, there are three major stakeholders involved in it’s generation, supply, transmission and accessibility; ECG, The Volta River Authority (VRA) and Ghana Grid Company Limited (GRIDCo). VRA is responsible for generating and supply of power; GRIDCo deals with the transmission aspect and ECG shoulders the accessibility bit of the deal. I can almost hear the question being echoed, “then why the heck does ECG bear ALL the brunt of insults and counter-insults metted out in any electricity mishap?”
Well, like I said, ECG’s main responsibility is to make sure electricity is accessible to the ordinary Ghanaian for domestic, industrial and commercial usage, among others like presenting of bills and collection of payments. It only makes sense that grievances are made to the middle person who sells a product by another entity because he/she IS the one monies exchange hands with.
My point? It is just fair that we get value for services we subscribe to and pay money for. And there are a thousand and one faults in the services being rendered by ECG which may seem mundane and tagged “Ghanaian-like”,but in actual sense are a reflection on how the consumer who is ‘always right’ is disregarded in the most rudest of manners! I will highlight two of this sheer malarkey.
So we are in 21st century Ghana where electricity is being rationed out in a haphazard way. I’m risking being sent to the gallows by this statement because apparently, electricity rationing or load shedding is no more. Magically disappeared only a few months to the next general election and we are being told to believe this is as a result of some power barges which have arrived to save the day. Ok! Believe what you may, but I’m tempted to bet my last one Ghana pesewa that our power woes are far from over.
I’m a ‘glass-half-full’ kinda girl but I can say in this case that the current stable and constant electricity supply we are enjoying is the calm before the storm. There is something mediocre with Ghanaians as we tend to always find short term solutions to problems. But how is this only ECG’s fault seeing as there are other factors involved in the generation of electricity to the final consumption by consumers? My problem with this is not so much from the rationing which became necessary because of a dip in supply, as it is in the way it was done.
If one were to look up the definition of ‘ration’, it means to limit (someone) to a specific allowance of something. Equally. So during those trying load shedding times, some people were left ‘lightless’ for days whilst others hardly felt the slightest impact. I know, because I’ve faced both sides of the coin. I got married last year during ‘dumsor’ and of course had to change homes, and in my case, different communities.
In my old home, our lights were hardly on for more than five hours when there was a 24-12-24 hour schedule of how long electricity was supposed to go on and off. It was frustrating to say the least. Then I moved to my new home where I had power almost 24 hours a day! The few times it was off, I could count the minutes or sometimes seconds it could take to be back on. Yay for me, whilst my parents suffered ‘dum-sor-dum’. It felt like living in two separate Ghanas…
My question to ECG, why couldn’t every community be treated equally? The answer on most people’s lips will dwell on the fact that some areas are densely-populated hence consume more power than their sparsely-peopled counterparts. Utmost nonsense! It SHOULDN’T matter because even if one lives in a cave and has electricity, one pays the SAME tariff just like everyone else. And there ought not to be any differential treatment. Rumour has it that areas that had influential person/persons with government ties were almost exempt from ‘dumsor’. In my case it is true, as there is a big shot in my new neighborhood who offers ECG services on contract basis. Sighs.
Newsflash, I have heard people swear that ‘dumsor’ is very much going on in their communities. Maybe it has decreased a tad, but some people are experiencing erratic power supply. Go power barges!
If you are a working adult who fulfills their ‘adult’ duties in paying for utilities, I know just like me you get a slight shiver anytime you hear the word ‘prepaid’. It doesn’t even need ‘meter’ attached to it to make you lose your cool, and with good reason too.
The prepaid meter is a device that empties pockets and leaves people in darkness. Heck, you don’t even need to be working or paying for electricity yourself but you know how pissed off the person who takes care of your prepaid credit gets when the prepaid meter is being discussed. I call it the ‘money eating’ item of all monthly expenditures. So what has the almighty ECG got to do with this one too, you ask? Everything! Of the three stakeholders, ECG is solely responsible for selling power and they deal with every electricity bill payment/credit buying.
Ghanaians woke up one day after several deliberations by the powers that be that, all electricity meters which hitherto were postpaid, would change to the prepaid system. This translated in one buying whatever power he/she could afford at a time before using said power. This seemed a fair and reasonable request, until some meters kept gobbling up credit like it was insane. When it happens the first time, one just brushes it off as one of ‘those things’,the second time is cause for a some concern but by the third time, frustration begins to set in.
And if you are like me, you would march to the nearest ECG office for some explanation. As if having rehearsed, anytime I inquire on why an amount of credit that used to take me through three weeks would just vanish in three days, I’m told I need re-wiring in the entire house! There’s no inquiry as to whether you live in a newly-built house or not, the solution is for you to re-wire. My dad took heed to the advice but little changed I tell ya!
As if credit magically disappearing is not enough, consumers also have to contend with not being able to buy credit as and when needed. Long queues characterize credit vending points. After waiting in line for your turn too, don’t be surprised to go back home empty-handed because there is “no network” to load your card!
Another cause of concern about the prepaid meter, at least to me is the lack of education on it. It doesn’t come with any manual as far as I know. The technician who installed mine seemed as clueless to the many figures that was displayed on it as I was. All he told me was that ,”you have GHC 10 credit on it” and hurriedly scurried off when I asked him where EXACTLY I would see the GHC 10 on the meter. He mumbled something about the meter placed too high even though he was standing on a chair.
Thing is, I could read the figures alright but I couldn’t make any sense of it and so couldn’t he! So why couldn’t it be user-friendly seeing as the loading of physical credit would be done by the owner? It took me several loads without knowing if I had been getting my money’s worth of credit to devise a means to ascertain how much monetary credit I had at any given time. I said devise oh, so I could be wrong! I’ve had my meter for almost a year now but I have no idea how much money translates into what kilowatt I consume monthly. I know it’s there somewhere on that godforsaken meter, but where?
There goes the dealings between most people and ECG and their money-gobbling meters. On daily basis. One cannot help but wonder how the situation would have been if ECG had the added responsibility of generating power AS WELL AS making it accessible. One can only wonder…
Do you have any good or bad ECG experience to share? Leave your comments below at the comment section and let’s get talking!
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