Ghana’s capacity to generate energy for industrial, commercial and domestic use is in serious crisis because of the failure of mining companies, industries, ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to pay the huge sums of money they owe the Volta River Authority (VRA).
Figures available to the Daily Graphic put the current debt owed by MDAs to the VRA at GH¢90 million, while some mining companies also owe the authority more than GH¢15 million.
Furthermore, the VRA claims that it is compelled to sell power cheaper than the production cost, as a result of which what it obtains from loyal customers who pay their bills regularly is not enough to sustain its operations, a situation that has plunged the authority into a critical financial situation.
As the big consumers and government agencies appear reluctant to meet their debt obliga-tions, the VRA is pushing for higher tariffs to enable it raise the needed revenue for the sustenance of its operations.
Alternatively, it says it will require extra funding from the government for the sustenance of its operations and to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.
The government can pay its bills one way, or pay them another. Preferably the MDAs, ministries, departments, and agencies will pay their own bills, and itemize them in their budgets. Or the government can pay them in some other way, with subsidies or some other arrangement that must be clearly defined. But they must pay, and must be realistic about what they are paying and the VRA’s income and expenses. And the process should be transparent and visible to the public, who is paying, and who is not paying.
The mining companies have been brutal to people living in mining areas, displacing people, poisoning and destroying the environment. They most certainly should pay their bills. That is the least they can do for the country.
The Head of Public Relations at the VRA, Mrs Gertrude Koomson, put VRA’s loss at 50 per cent of its production cost and listed inflation and increases in crude oil prices as other factors contributing to the huge losses.
“As things stand at the moment, there is no way the authority can continue to effectively serve the nation, since its revenues are not covering the cost of production,” she added.
Mrs Koomson said the VRA believed that the time had come for the public to start paying the right price for electricity and went further to state that the authority had presented a proposal to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURC) and was awaiting its response.
She observed that if the right price was not paid today to meet the cost of production, consumers might be compelled to pay much higher prices in future that is, if the system did not collapse completely.
I wonder exactly what Mrs. Koomson means by people paying the right price. Does she mean that the businesses and MDAs that have failed to pay should pay up their share? It sounds like the system is currently being sustained by the small rate payers while the big players are skating along free. Is she talking about charging the smaller rate payers more because the big guys don’t pay? If so, that has to change.
All those using power produced by the VRA need to pay their fair share. It is especially important for businesses and government agencies to show leadership and support, for the sake of both solvency and fairness. To do otherwise is a shift of wealth upwards from the poorer to the richer. It is also a shift from being functional to being dysfunctional, a path to certain failure. It is a bad way to do business, as well as being unethical and undemocratic.
It should be possible to bring some legal pressure to bear on the big players to pay their bills. In this regard Ghana may be suffering from the structural adjustments forced down its throat by the IMF and World Bank. Structural adjustments force governments to dismantle those parts of government that are particularly necessary for serving the general population, for building up a country, for creating jobs, creating a middle class, and achieving real independence. They are designed to leave a country at the mercy of predatory capitalism. World Bank and IMF aid and adjustments are designed to cripple a country’s ability to govern itself. For examples, you can look at the government and economy of almost every country they have “helped”. Ghana has certainly suffered its share.
Akosombo Dam photo from marantzer on Flickr.