With the backlash of frequent upward adjustments of electricity tariffs fuelled by the energy sector levy and additional taxes hitting hard at the government, the majority National Democratic Congress (NDC) in Parliament, led by the Chief Whip, Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, has called on the Mahama administration to urgently intervene.
He noted that if nothing was done about the situation the overall effect would undermine the government’s efforts at solving the power crisis in the country.
The majority chief whip, who made the call on behalf of the majority in an urgent statement on the floor of Parliament yesterday, accused officials of the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) of doing the bidding of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) by intentionally ‘over-billing’ poor customers and thereby causing disaffection for the government.
Muntaka again stated, “My brother, I am using myself as an example. I used to pay GH¢300 a month at home but now my bill is over GH¢1,200, which is ridiculous.” He said that a friend who had two different apartments was paying a total of GH¢50,000 a month, wondering how ordinary Ghanaians were going to bear the cost of such astronomical increase in electricity bills.
“Mr Speaker, my information reveals that there are errors in the billing of the newly installed prepaid meters, administrative lapses due to poor supervision of technical officers by their superiors, deliberate effort by some unscrupulous ECG officials to take advantage of the new billing arrangements for personal gains and overestimation of bills by consumers on post-paid meters,” he observed.
Most MPs were of the view that the new tariffs are killing Ghanaians and the government needs to do something urgently about it.
The Speaker, Edward Doe Adjaho, asked the leadership of the House to refer the matter to the Mines and Energy Committee of Parliament, since it is a purely technical matter, for the committee to invite the ECG officials to explain, after which the committee would subsequently report back to the plenary session.
But in a sharp rebuttal, the NPP MP for Atwima Mponua and member of the Mines and Energy Committee of Parliament, Isaac Kwame Asiamah, said the government after recalcitrantly imposing ‘killer’ taxes on electricity consumption, must not run away from the ripple effects.
According to Mr Asiamah, now that the government, after realising that its IMF policies to increase tariffs in readiness to privatise the ECG is having a telling effect on the people who are bitterly complaining about the sharp increases in electricity bills and have threatened to vote the government out of power, has resorted to its usual propaganda and has pushed the blame on the ECG.
“How can the same company which has been providing electricity services to the people of the country over the years with the same personnel in-charge now become a monster and work against the same government managing it?” the NPP parliamentarian queried, pointing out that Muntaka’s story should be told to the marines because Ghanaians are more intelligent for that.
He told a section of the parliamentary press corps that the fact of the matter was that the government had done its own survey ahead of the coming general election and had come to the fair conclusion that Ghanaians were going to vote against it based on the unrealistic electricity tariffs being imposed on them.
“I know the government has commissioned an election survey and has come to the stark reality that the killer electricity bills will cause the government to lose terribly even in its strongholds, and therefore has resorted to this unhealthy propaganda that ECG should be blamed for the high electricity tariffs being imposed on Ghanaians,” he noted.
He said President John Mahama had said on several platforms, including the floor of Parliament, that Ghanaians must now be ready to pay higher or realistic electricity tariffs to save the energy sector and went ahead to introduce the energy sector levy bill which the majority NDC in Parliament embraced and voted overwhelmingly for its passage, even when “we in the minority strongly spoke against it and said it will put more burden on Ghanaians and so why are the NDC MPs now crying wolf? They should stop shedding crocodile tears for suffering Ghanaians.”
Mr Asiamah stressed, “The president must be told to openly accept this blame and take full responsibility because it is his own policies in the energy sector which have brought us to this level.” He added that the president must not hide behind the majority in Parliament to continue to throw dust into the people’s eyes since Parliament is a place for records and that whoever comes to tell lies there would be exposed as has happened to the majority chief whip.
“What the majority chief whip is saying is very deceitful and not the reality of the situation,” he pointed out.
According to Mr Asiamah, he as a member of the Mines and Energy Committee had said severally that the cosmetic approach by the government in solving the energy crisis was very artificial and would definitely result in further dumsor, which Ghanaians are experiencing now.
“The fact of the matter is that the government does not have money to buy crude oil to power our thermal plants and so it has to pass on the responsibility to consumers who are being unnecessarily taxed to pay high tariffs to enable the government buy crude to generate power,” he said, stressing that very soon many Ghanaians would not be able to afford the cost of electricity and the few companies left would suffer.
“Ghanaians have seen the deceit and lies of this government and are very much prepared to vote them out of power and bring in a more competent government led by Nana Akufo-Addo,” Asiamah underscored.
Nana Akufo-Addo, standard bearer of the NPP, in recent statements, has been championing for reduction in electricity tariffs, especially when electricity bills are more than rent, saying that it does not make sense for consumers to pay more than rent.
He was bombarded with killer bills by a section of Ghanaians during his recent campaign tour of the country.
Meanwhile, the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC), under pressure yesterday, ordered the ECG to suspend its new software for billing customers, claiming that over-billing had been detected.