My Tariff Comments Misconstrued Spio-Garbrah

The trades ministry has said comments by the sector minister regarding the recent increments in utility tariffs have been misconstrued.

Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah in reaction to the recent hikes in electricity and water bills told the media it is outrageous to increase tariffs by over 50% at a go.

“First month in an election year and you wonder if utility rates have to go up by 150 per cent. Why didn’t it go up by 20 per cent two, three years ago, 30 per cent last year and maybe 40 per cent this year to more or less achieve the same objective?

“Why have some of these institutions waited till election year and all of a sudden you hear incredibly outrageous rates…all the way to ordinary water that human beings drink.

“Are they trying to raise revenue for a particular purpose? What is the objective,” he fumed.

The comments have generated controversies with pollster Ben Ephson calling on him to resign if he is against the upward adjustment in utility bills.

But a statement signed by the acting communications director of the ministry Nana Akrasi-Sarpong said Dr Spio-Garbrah’s comments were in reference to the anomalies that have been recorded in the electricity metering systems and not the actual increments by the PURC.

“The Minister wishes to point out that the increases in tariffs he is reported to be referring to are the reported real post-paid and pre-paid bills some residential, commercial and industrial customers of the ECG are purported to have actually received or have paid which in the opinion of these ECG customers are significantly higher than what the average 57% tariff increases should represent. The Minister was not referring to the Special Energy Levy which was to generate a tariff increase of an average 57%, which reportedly has now been reduced following negotiations between Labor and Government”.

Below are details of the statement by the trade ministry

The attention of the Ministry of Trade and Industry has been drawn to a number of media reports quoting statements allegedly made by the Minister for Trade and Industry during a working visit to the Volta Region, where among others he spoke about the recent increases in tariffs and their effects on business and the economy.

Some media houses have reported that ‘ the Minister has stated that the tariff increases are “exceptionally outrageous” or “ incredible” and that he “condemned” or “lashed out” at the PURC for the increases or words to that effect’.

The Minister wishes to point out that the increases in tariffs he is reported to be referring to are the reported real post-paid and pre-paid bills some residential, commercial and industrial customers of the ECG are purported to have actually received or have paid which in the opinion of these ECG customers are significantly higher than what the average 57% tariff increases should represent. The Minister was not referring to the Special Energy Levy which was to generate a tariff increase of an average 57%, which reportedly has now been reduced following negotiations between Labor and Government.

For the avoidance of doubt, the Minister has not condemned the PURC. It must be clarified that although the PURC has approved average tariff increases for power of about 57%, numerous individuals and businesses reported that the actual payments they are making are more than 200%, 300% or even 500%. It is based on these reported actual payments by some utility consumers which compelled the Honourable Minister to describe as “excessive” and “outrageous” if true, and not the basic PURC- approved tariff increases.

In order to ascertain the truth or otherwise of these claims, which are being made mainly in the media especially on radio, the Minister of Trade and Industry is recommending to the Association of Ghana Industries that they should invite the PURC and the Energy Commission to undertake a joint audit of actual bills customers claimed to have paid or invoices received, and for a comparison to be made of receipts for past and current payments for electricity bills.

Furthermore, the Minister noted that in an election year, based on past experiences, it was possible for various public agencies to create mischief for the government by an adverse application of properly agreed tariff increases, thereby making the Government unpopular. So that even where a 50% increase in a given tariff has been agreed by the PURC, in the course of applying that increase some customers may receive exaggerated and excessive bills aimed at causing disaffection for the government.

The Trade and Industry minister therefore suggested to his colleague political appointees to be extra vigilant in supervising and monitoring agencies and departments under their oversight.

For example, the Minister disclosed that a salt mining company in the Volta Region claimed that their license fees had been increased by the Minerals Commission from One Ghana Cedi per acre to as much as GHC 50 per acre in just one day. In the course of the Minister’s tour of the Volta Region, companies have complained about unannounced and non-pre-notified increases.

These include various port levies and sudden changes in the valuations of goods by the Ghana Revenue Authority. Other businesses are reported to have received various increases in levies and charges from a wide range of governmental agencies as part of efforts of those agencies to make up for budget shortfalls and to beef up their internally-generated funds.

However, the Minister noted that, as each agency is increasing these levies independently, government may not get a complete picture of the situation. The Minister revealed that his Ministry is working with the Association of Ghana Industries to obtain a comprehensive list of all charges by numerous public agencies in order to assess the total impact on business and industry.

The Minister also indicated that the doors of the Ministry of Trade and Industry are wide open for any consultations with public agencies—such as the Lands Commission, Forestry Commission, Food and Drugs Authority, Ghana Standards Authority, Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, etc– that wish to revise levies, so that fuller consultations and discussions on the impact on business, industry and the economy can take place and proper communication is planned and executed before new or increased levies are announced by some of these bodies.

The Ministry wishes to inform the general public that such words as reported in the news media with headlines such as “ Minister condemns” or “lashes out” are words often selected by reporters and editors to add colour to their headlines. In this case, these do not represent the actual words of Dr Spio-Garbrah, but the interpretation some media houses have chosen to give to his comments.


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