‘Killing’ Indigenous Businesses: US Embassy, MTN et al Owe ECG Ghc 300m

…As Government Okays Sale of ECG

Boakye Agyarko, Minister for Energy

While revenue agencies in the country are quick to swoop on Ghanaians businesses for nonpayment of taxes etc., it has emerged that several foreign companies and organizations operating in Ghana are highly indebted to state institutions running into millions of Ghana cedis.

In one such instance, Minister of Energy, Mr Boakye Agyarko, in a stunning revelation, disclosed how the US Embassy in Ghana and MTN Ghana, owe the ECG several million Cedis of power supplied.

While the exact outstanding amount owed ECG by the American Embassy with over 160 facilities across the country was not readily available, MTN on its part says it has an outstanding GHC35million debt to pay the state power distributer.

Sources at ECG told The aL-hAJJ, many companies owned by Lebanese, Chinese, Indians and other expatriates across the country owe the ECG huge sums of monies.

According to the source, foreign companies within Accra and Tema alone owe the ECG as much as GHC300. “They (foreign companies) owe us (ECG) a lot of money but unfortunately we are unable to chase them for it,” the source stated.

Though ECG has been active in disconnecting Ghanaians businesses and households that owe relatively meager sums, the Minister revealed that the state owned power Distributor has failed and or, refused to recover huge debts owed by many multinationals in the country.

Speaking to a group of journalists and officials of Millennium Development Authority at the sidelines of a 7-member ECG PSP stakeholders’ committee in Accra, Mr Agyrako said he was astounded when ECG has GHC130 million a week in receivables, but only manages to collects GHC 50 million.

“What happens to the balance? You look at their inventory and they have 20 years’ supply of spares. You have locked up that money in spares that would be obsolete,” he stated in an utterly jaw dropping mood shocking.

Singling out American Embassy and MTN Ghana, the Minister said he was shocked when officials of the two institutions said they have not been billed for several years despite their consistent effort to get ECG to bill them.

He said “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.”

On MTN, Mr Agyarko noted “MTN called me and said ‘we owe ECG GH¢35 million. We are trying to pay. We are waiting for wire instructions. And we’ve been waiting for one month. So I went to ECG and I asked them. What’s going on? And they said ‘Oh the person who is supposed to issue the instructions is gone on leave’….And they have as many as 6500 staff and still growing.”

Perhaps, justifying why there was the need privatize ECG, the Minister wondered why the ECG officials have failed to collect huge debts owed by multinationals but are busily disconnecting households and small businesses owing the company.

“I live in Krobo Odumase, there are places there where ECG billed an electrician with just a bulb in his kiosk for GH¢4,000 a month. And the impudence on the part of ECG is they want to go and disconnect that person. ECG has to change,” he said.

He added “how is it that the power transmitted to EC, they cannot account for it over 20 years? People try to blame this small power theft, illegal power connection. That’s not where it is. There’s something called district boundary metering. We don’t do it. So a district like Somanya does not know how much power has been given to it. The grid power system also does not know how much power it has given to Somanya and how much has been paid. It is like say, I supplied petrol to a petrol station, but I don’t know how much petrol I put in the underground tank. So the station manager can come and say ‘Oh here’s GH¢100. That’s all you brought,’ without you the supplier knowing how much you put in their tank. So unless we address this district boundary metering, that power loss will not go down. And each percentage of power lost is 60 million cedis. So you are losing 21 percent from start. And then the balance of 70 that you get you only collect half of the money.”

It has now become the practice in Ghana that, revenue collection agencies and state institutions are only interested in chasing Ghanaian businesses to honor their obligations to the state while multinationals foreign businesses owing huge sums of money are left off the hook.

Recently, Chief Executive of Engineers and Planners, Mr Ibrahim Mahama was dragged to court by officials of Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) for not paying SSNIT contributions of his employees.

He was also dragged to the Economic and Organized Crime Office for nonpayment of duties his companies owed the Customs Division of Ghana Revenue Authority.

While there is ample evidence that several multinationals are heavily indebted to GRA and SSNIT for duties and taxes and nonpayment of employees contributions, these institutions are only interested in chasing Ghanaian businesses for meager sums.

Source: The Al-Hajj

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