Friday, June 30, 2006

As the Week draws to a Close in Accra: Thoughts on Regulating /Complaining about Water, Electricity; Air Quality in Accra Deteriorating


I spent the better part of my lunchtime trying to chase down Ghana Water Company and Electricity Company of Ghana. Actually, I only managed to get hold of GWCL, whilst making a complaint about ECG.

My primary beef with GWCL was that they had switched the water off in my residential area since Monday evening, and it had not come back up until today, Friday, 30 June. Were they waiting for the Black Stars to come home before they switched it on, or what?



I pointed out that unlike ECG, who at least inform the public that they will cut the electricity off for maintenance work, those people at GWCL don’t even have the decency to inform us. Why was that?

When I spoke to the woman at GWCL, she asked me to hold on. Prior to that, she explained that "oh, I didn’t know", triggering much bemusement with me.

"You did not know??!", I wondered curiously, "then why didn’t you check?".

I had to repeat myself to the so-called foreman, who spoke with me about the issue. He said rather emphatically that "when we switch the water on, as far as we know, it has come on, so it should be for you to tell us."

"But not everyone likes to call—besides it’s expensive—so it should be you who should check with us."

He didn’t seem to understand, so I left the issue, and said "yes, yes", just to shut him up.

For us, the consumers, to call? What on earth?!

Then I remembered that two days earlier, I had tried to call the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (http://www.purc.com.gh),located downtown in Accra. They had given me one number to call.



Thankfully, the bright voice of a young lady answered today, and she said that she could help. I detailed my complaints—that for the past two weeks, ECG, without any warning, has been switching the electricity off indiscriminately, and very much to a lot of people’s chagrin.

I wanted to know exactly what methods of redress would be given to me, especially as ECG was, before the World Cup season, informing us on the radio, etc.

She explained that they would take my particulars—phone number, name, etc—and call the district engineer in my residential area. They would then try to establish what the problem was. If he knows, then he tries to explain why it is happening, and what can be done about it. If not, then they will check their equipment.

She promised to get back to me. I certainly hope she does! If not, especially with the celebration of 1 July (republic day tomorrow), and "consigned" till Monday as a public holiday, I am deeply afraid that they might pull an indiscriminate lights-off on us.

I wondered whether there was no hotline, and she claimed the number I had called was the hotline, and that they regrettably do not work on weekends, but at least during the week, they work from 8-5pm.

I asked her surname, and she wondered whether I was a journalist…I wondered whether I should not put their names. Should I? SHouldn’t I? Maybe, if they knew a "journalist" was complaining, they might be more serious, or…???:-)

Whatever the case may be, I will DEFINITELY be getting back to them. I really do hope PURC prove to me that they can be an effective regulatory body—not just a toothless one!


In other news, in the web excellence awards of the Kofi Annan IT Centre for Excellence (http://www.aiti-kace.com.gh) that took place yesterday, CITI97.3FM took home the award for the best news website. Kudos!!

Health Watch
Doctors , "of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, who recently staged a strike action over delay in the implementation of a new salary structure, have been paid their June salaries under the new structure, which has replaced the Additional Duty Hour Allowance (ADHA)" (from: http://www.ghananewstoday.com/gnt_cn_detailb.cfm?tblNewsCatID=32&tblNewsID=473

[I guess as proof of PURC’s investigation, I actually just received a call from the lady I spoke with who wanted to verify which residential area I was talking about, as she was being queried when she made some calls. I am impressed!]

Other health news is that:

  • Health institutions are being encouraged to "provide space" for herbal practitioners, which is great news for a population that relies a great deal on the latter, and cannot always afford the private, or let alone, the NHIS-subsidised healthcare, which is selectively free.
    From: http://www.ghananewstoday.com/gnt_cn_detailb.cfm?tblNewsCatID=32&tblNewsID=530 There is, in fact, a 142-page manual out, that "would enable the country to develop safe and efficacious traditional and herbal medicines of international standards and of health, economic and social benefits to the people". Good stuff!

    On other health news, disturbing reports reaching CITIFM’s news was the air quality in the capital of Accra is deteriorating as a result of "indiscriminate burning of materials, particularly plastics in open spaces." From: http://www.ghananewstoday.com/gnt_cn_detailb.cfm?tblNewsCatID=32&tblNewsID=470

    Most noteworthy from the report is that:

    • "The worst destruction to the air currently is from vehicle emissions, which is really affecting the health of a lot of people living around major roads such as Kaneshie First Light and East Legon due to the huge emissions,
    • The level of particulate matter within the ambient air was quite high and was affecting human health seriously, hence the need for caution

    It would be the Environmental Protection Agency that would come out with this warning last week, warning residents of Accra of "an increase in cases of respiratory tract infections; headaches and cancers".

    Have a good weekend, and enjoy the Brazil-France game on Saturday at the ongoing FIFA 2006 world cup that has seen one controversial referee, Graham Poll, return home. Will the game be redux 1998, when Brazil was defeated at the hands of the French?

    enjoy!

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