Dr Charles Wereko Brobbey , a former CEO of the Volta River Authority (VRA), has urged Ghanaians not to be outraged by the recent utility tariff increment, which has seen electricity and water bills go up by 79 per cent and 52 per cent respectively.
The increment, which has prompted condemnation from a cross-section of the public, is expected to take effect from October 1, 2013.
Already some trade unions, civil society organisations and political players have threatened to resist the implementation of the new tariffs, which they say is not in the best interest of Ghanaians.
But speaking Saturday on Joy FM and Multi TV’s News File, Dr Wereko Brobbey pointed out that it was cheaper to pay electricity bills at the current rate than to rely on candles.
He said the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) sold electricity to Ghanaian consumers at a cost of 15 cents (30 pesewas) per Kilowatt hour (kWh), which, he said, was also the cost of one candle.
According to him, a kWh of electricity could power fifty bulbs for one hour; a development he said was safer and more economically sustainable than buying 50 candles for a similar effect.
Dr Brobbey said the utility tariff increment was a step in the right direction because it could mark a decline in the financial loss often incurred by service providers.
This financial loss, Dr Wereko Brobbey said, was partly attributable to system losses and the perpetual failure of the government to pay millions of dollars in debt to utility service providers.
He said the debt often accumulated over several years, putting a huge financial strain on the service providers.
“Because VRA, ECG are government agencies doesn’t mean they shouldn’t make profit,” he said.
He added that government had often intervened to prevent utility service providers from putting the automatic tariff adjustment formula into effect, thereby making huge, one-time increments inevitable after a certain period.
The former VRA CEO urged Ghanaians not to “cry about the quantum of price rise”, but to rather direct their dissatisfaction at the poor service delivery of the ECG and the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL).
“When I was VRA chair, I got 100 per cent increases in tariffs for two consecutive years,” he said, adding: “Let’s focus on service and performance. Let’s focus on ending distribution losses.”
To this end, Dr Brobbey criticised the Public Utilities and Regulatory Commission (PURC) for, according to him, failing to compel utility service providers to improve their services before announcing new tariffs.
He also called on the government to set targets for the heads of ECG and GWCL and hold them to performance standards.
Meanwhile the ECG has signaled its intent to reduce system losses that occur during electricity transmission.
Mr Ebenezer Baiden, a member of the ECG Utilities Tariff Team, who also spoke on the programme, said the company had reduced system losses from 27 per cent in 2010 to 22 per cent in 2013.
He said though this still fell short of the 21 per cent regulatory benchmark set by the PURC and the Energy Ministry, the ECG was on course to meet the benchmark by the end of the year.
He said as part of efforts to achieve this, the ECG was liaising with the A-G’s office to set up utility courts to deal with theft of electrical facilities and infrastructure.
“Innovative interventions have been made. We are making efforts to revamp our network,” he added.
Mr Baiden defended the electricity tariff increment, saying the ECG had run out of financial resources with which to continue improving its services.
He said the increment was, therefore, imperative.