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PURC gives 24-hour ultimatum to sort out prepaid problems

The Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) has given the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) a 24-hour ultimatum to explain why it should not be penalised following the inability of its customers to purchase credit for their prepaid meters since last Sunday.

The order, the regulatory body said, had become necessary because the ECG failed to comply with its directive to submit details of its emergency response measures in the wake of the challenges being faced by customers who use prepaid meters.

Statement

A statement signed by its Executive Secretary, Mrs Mami Dufie Ofori, and issued in Accra on Thursday, the PURC, said the directive to the ECG to submit details of its emergency response measures elapsed at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, December 6, 2017.

“Because they did not meet our deadline with regard to reforms, we have decided to initiate our enforcement action with regard to penalty. So we have gone further to require from them to give us a true cause as to why we should not implement our monetary penalties,” Mrs Ofori said.

The statement said in line with the PURC’s mandate to ensure the provision of quality supply of service and protect the interest of consumers, it directed the ECG to immediately augment its help desks in the affected districts.

It said that directive was complied with even though it was inadequate.

Following that, the PURC further directed the ECG to submit details of its emergency response measures by 4 p.m. last Wednesday, but that directive was not complied with.

“This has been followed up with a second directive to the ECG requesting the company to show cause in terms of monetary penalties to be imposed, with a response deadline of December 8, 2017 in accordance with due process,” the statement added.

The commission said it would further conduct “comprehensive independent investigations into ECG’s IT infrastructure to ascertain the root cause of the system failure, which will inform further regulatory actions”.

Meanwhile, the woes of thousands of electricity consumers in the Accra West Region of the ECG are yet to be over as the about 30,000 customers who use the build, operate and transfer (BOT) prepaid meters in the region and purchased credit after November 11 this year will have to reconfigure their cards before they can buy power, writes Timothy Ngnenbe.

According to the ECG, customers who purchased credit after November 11, 2017 are unable to buy at their various districts and vending points because their cards have been corrupted by the ECG server.

The figure represents 10 per cent of the 300,000 users of the BOT prepaid meters in the affected areas, comprising the Korle Bu, Kaneshie, Achimota and Dansoman districts of the ECG.

At a press conference in Accra on Thursday, the Managing Director (MD) of the ECG, Mr Samuel Boakye-Appiah, said: “The affected cards need to be reactivated before they can be used but unfortunately, the officials at the various vending points referred the customers to the project site at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, which resulted in the anxiety and huge numbers that went there.

While apologising to the affected customers for the untold hardships that the system failure had brought on them, Mr Boakye-Appiah said the company had advanced plans to roll out a smart payment application system to reduce the stress associated with the current payment mode.

“We have piloted that system and it works well, so it will be launched very soon. When the new system starts, customers will not need to visit vending points because they will use a mobile application to purchase credit online,” he said.

Since last Sunday, customers who use the BOT prepaid meters in those parts of Accra have not been able to recharge their cards, a situation that visited untold hardships on them and grounded some businesses.

Immediate solutions

Hundreds of the affected customers last Wednesday massed up at the project office of the ECG in Accra, venting their anger and counting their losses in a desperate search for answers to the unfortunate situation in which they found themselves.

However, to deal with the situation, Mr Boakye-Appiah said 40 help desks had been set up at the affected districts and 80 technical officers deployed there to help reactivate the cards.

When asked if he could give a timeline as to when the affected customers would begin to enjoy uninterrupted service, he said more than half of the cards had been worked on, adding that the remaining cards would be reactivated by today.

He advised the affected customers to go to their various districts to reactivate the cards rather than mass up at the company’s project site at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle.

“In order to reduce congestion at the project office, customers are advised to deposit their cards and mobile phone numbers at the district offices where special desks have been set up to handle the reactivation of the cards.

Calm returns

Meanwhile, calm and order returned to the ECG Project Office yesterday as ECG workers were busily serving customers to resolve their grievances, reports Emmanuel Ebo Hawkson.

Even though hundreds of people were still massed up on the premises, they were in queues to submit their faulty cards, take their restored cards or buy credit to enable them to access electricity.

Some of the consumers stated that although they had been in queues for a long time, they were being served, unlike last Wednesday when “everything seemed to be at a standstill”.

“Today is far better than yesterday, I have not been served but the queue is gradually moving. I think the ECG has brought on board more workers to deal with the situation,” Mr Asare Brako, a customer at Accra New Town, said.

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