The Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) says it is engaging officials of the US Embassy to ascertain the amount owed the power distributor.
The Embassy has insisted it has not paid any electricity bills for the past two years and has been waiting on ECG to furnish it with the correct bills for payment to be effected.
ECG had said it in a press release Tuesday that it was not owed any money.
But speaking on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show Thursday, the spokesperson for the Public Utilities Workers Union (PUWU), Michael Nyantakyi, said the issue was completely misunderstood.
He explained that once the user receives a bill he/she is supposed to go and pay at the respective outlet.
Responding to the tweet by the US Embassy, he said it is not the case that they were not receiving their bills but rather they complained of not receiving the “correct bill.”
ECG recently changed most meters from post-paid to prepaid
He further explained that although they are always billed the bone of contention has to do with some inconsistencies in their bills.
The US Embassy broke its silence on the state of its indebtedness to the ECG saying it has not been billed for the past two years.
In a tweet Wednesday, the Embassy said it has been chasing the power distributor to submit the bill for payment but this has not been done.
The Embassy's tweet follows a comment by Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko about the balance sheet of ECG during an interaction with journalists and officials of Millennium Development Authority (MiDA).
At the inauguration of a 7-member ECG PSP Stakeholders’ Committee in Accra the Minister said the debt stock of Ghana's power distributor is increasing by the day due to inefficiency.
Mr Agyarko added that the inability of ECG to improve its balance sheets is because it has failed to collect debts owed it by entities such as the US Embassy and telecom giant MTN.
Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko
“I had a discussion with the managing director. American Embassy has 160 facilities in Ghana. They have not been billed for two years. So they went to ECG and said ‘look, we owe you money. Bring us a bill. Bring us pre-paid meters.
"We will use it for one year, and whenever we use, we will multiply it by 3 and give it to you.’ Up to now, the ECG hasn’t been able to do that,” he said.
The Minister's comment triggered a response from the Public Utilities Workers Union (PUWU) who described as "strange" Mr Agyarko's claim about the US Embassy.
PUWU in a statement released Tuesday said, "US Embassy does not owe ECG in terms of bills [so] if they were not getting bills, would they have paid all their indebtedness till date?"
According to the PUWU, the Minister’s claim that ECG’s debt stock appears to be worsening by the day due to its faulty metering system and avoidable employee recklessness is not supported by the facts.
“On the contrary, ECG’s current average weekly collection is GH¢103,918,594.11, as against a target of GH¢130,000,000. This excludes indebtedness by MMDAs and Ghana Water Company Limited, which are state entities,” it said.
But US Embassy Spokesperson, Sarah Stealy told Joy News funds have been set aside to redeem the Embassy's debt owed ECG. She confirmed the tweets sent earlier on the handle of the Embassy (@USEmbassyGhana) as authentic.
"We are going to continue to work with ECG to get the correct bill so we can pay," she said.
But Mr Nyantakyi doubted if the spokesperson for the Embassy is up to date on the issues regarding the Embassy's indebtedness.
"We have evidence and there is information that the Embassy to all intent and purposes do not owe ECG the way it is being portrayed.
"They [Embassy] should not create the impression that they do not receive bills at all, that deviates from the situation. Correct bills here mean that the user is disputing the bills given to him/her.
According to him, the ECG had a lot of bills dispute from customers after it migrated its billing system in 2015 where others were overbilled which happened to the Embassy's bills.
Speaking on the current state of affairs regarding the Embassy and ECG he explained, that the Embassy operates two special billing system called the SLT system with a monthly total of GHS700,000.
"On these accounts, they have paid up their bills up to March 2017," he said explaining further that, the Embassy has another group account with a monthly total bill of GHS300,000 comprising 102 facilities.
"It is the group account that had a problem in 2015 and ECG has been engaging them on that but they want the bill to be prepared in a particular format so they can forward it to a higher authority for payment," he added.
US Embassy painting ECG bad?
Some workers of ECG protesting the concession during May Day parade in 2016
Reacting to the development, Deputy Ranking Member for the Energy Committee, Adams Mutawakilu, said the position taken by ECG is surprising now that the Embassy has come out to say otherwise. He called for an investigation into the issue.
He debunked criticisms about the Embassy’s posture of painting ECG in a bad light and publicizing the power distribution company's inefficiency to make a strong case for the concessionaire.
The U.S government is giving Ghana the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact II which is also meant to invite a concessionaire to reorganize ECG.
But Mr Mutawakilu disagreed saying the liabilities are to be taken care off first before the concessionaire gets to work.
“It is known fact that the balance sheet of ECG has not been good for some time now...it is good to go into the correspondence between the ECG and the Embassy," he said regarding the two years non-issuance of bill.