Opinions Wed, 13 Mar 2013

Wrong time for VRA to ask for tariff increase

The Volta River Authority (VRA) says its request for an upward adjustment of tariffs will make it financially viable to power its generators to end the recent power crisis. But the proposal has been met with huge opposition from consumers, some of whom have threatened not to pay, if the increase is approved by the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC).

The requests by the VRA for tariff increases because the nation’s largest power generator is suffocating under an unbearable weight of a huge debt owed it by government, brings to mind an Akan proverb, packaged in a rhetorical question which, when translated, states “how can the toad suffer when the lizard chews pepper”?

Stripped to its ordinary meaning, the adage seeks to emphasize that no one should be punished for the actions or inactions of another person. Simply put, Ghanaians cannot be asked to suffer because of the inefficiencies of the VRA.

Consumers are justifiably angry with the proposed tariff increase by VRA to enable it solve the electricity crisis in the country.

To be blunt, the VRA has no justification to ask for tariff increases in our current power crisis; and when it has so much accounts receivable sitting on its books.

The Volta Aluminum Company Ltd (VALCO) and other bodies owe VRA GH¢1,086,423,500, being non-payment for bulk sales of electricity to them. Of the said amount, MDAs are indebted to the tune of GH¢230million; Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) GH¢270 million; VALCO GH¢77million; while government owes the Authority GH¢509million, it said.

Also, the Director of Customer Service, Dr Nicholas Smart-Yeboah of the Electricity Company of Ghana, has just told Ghanaians that Government owed the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) close to US$500 million in bills.

Clearly, if VRA is able to curtail the distribution losses, illegal connections and collect its debt from government and ECG, it will be able to solve their financial crisis rather than pressurizing the ordinary consumer.

From all indications, it is evident that the VRA see consumers as the soft targets who can easily be leaned upon to pay for the debts of government and the ECG.

It is about time Ghanaians told the managers of our energy sector that consumers cannot continue to pay for inefficiencies of the VRA and ECG. The last time they proposed an increment; they gave the same excuse but did not deliver so why should we believe them this time.

It is extremely unacceptable for the VRA to impose the cost of their inefficiencies and the payment of government debts onto the ordinary Ghanaian.

We therefore urge the VRA to rethink its decision and come out with more pragmatic measures to solve the power crisis.

For now, it must be made clear that the VRA does not deserve any pesewa from consumers who have for years been managing with its poor service.

People are still grappling with the hike in fuel prices and the frustrating search for gas for their food and transportation. The PURC, therefore cannot be that insensitive to approve the demand by the VRA and expect Ghanaians to pay for an increase in tariffs when they are not being provided with the services they paid for.
Columnist: The Catalyst