General News Wed, 14 Aug 2019
The forward-and-back cycle of decisions (or rather indecisions) on the botched PDS/ECG concession agreement is happening so rapidly that one finds it difficult to keep track and pace with the unfolding drama.First, PDS took over the operations of ECG on March 1, 2019, as required by the Private Sector Participation (PSP) condition of the Millennium Challenge Compact II. Then, barely four months later, government suspended that concession agreement, with immediate effect, saying that it (government) had detected “fundamental and material” breaches in the concession agreement, particularly those relating to the required demand guarantee. To bridge any possible void in the power supply chain and therefore avert possible disruptions in power supplies to consumers, the power distribution and sales functions of PDS was given back to ECG about a fortnight ago. As if this was not enough, the nation got another utter shock, when ECG announced that it had, once again, handed over those very operations back to the PDS, barely days after the re-appointment of ECG to its original duties. This unstable and rather chaotic development in the power distribution industry is very worrisome and leaves much to be desired. It is now clear that the government is confounded by the problem it had brought onto itself and, in such obvious bewilderment, does not know what to do to bring the rather embarrassing situation under control and return the power sector back to the state of stability and progress that government inherited it.
But, perhaps what is more worrying is the role the Energy Commission has been made to play in this ridiculous drama. As the immediate past chairman of the Energy Commission, I find it difficult to accept the recent announcement by the Commission that it (the Energy Commission) had “appointed” ECG as the interim operator to take charge of the management and operation of electricity sales in the country, ostensibly, to ensure continuity of power supplies to consumers. This is a strange and undesirable development, as the Energy Commission has no mandate or powers to make any such “appointment”.
Indeed, the functions of the Energy Commission is only to regulate and manage the utilization of energy resources of the country. In the performance of these functions assigned to it by the Energy Commission Act of 1997 (Act 541), the Commission is enjoined to “advise the Minister for Energy on national policies for the efficient, economical and safe supply of electricity, having due regard to the national economy” (Article 2(b)). So, at best, the Energy Commission should have advised the Sector Minister to use the powers of his good office to appoint ECG as interim operator of the suspended PDS concession.
It will be recalled that it was the Government of Ghana, through the Ministry of Finance and the ECG, that suspended the concession agreement with PDS, in the first place (and not the Energy Commission), so one would have expected the decision to re-appoint ECG as the direct distributor of power to come from the Ministry of Finance or, more appropriately, from the Ministry of Energy, as the government agency that has powers to appoint or to dismiss other entities in the whole energy sector (including the Commission itself) and acts on the directive of the President in such major policy matters.
Over the years, we have worked so hard (since its inception if 1997) to establish the Energy Commission of Ghana as one of the very best regulators in Africa and we must all be proud of this feat and the many enviable achievements and successes it continues to chalk as one of the best regulators on the continent.
It is in this regard, that I wish to entreat the government to strive to protect the sanctity of the Commission (as a regulator) by resisting the temptation to parry its problems onto the Commission and thereby place that respectable institution in a conflict of interest situation.
Signed: Dr. Kwame Ampofo
Former Chairman, Energy Commission