Smart Technology as an Instrument of Torture: The Case of Electricity Company of Ghana Ltd, Winneba

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ECG
ECG

On Wednesday, 6th December, 2023, some officials of the Electricity Company of Ghana Ltd. (ECG), arrived at my home in an unmarked rickety pick up truck which appeared to have been salvaged from a scrapyard and gave the gate to the entrance of my humble abode, the ‘beating of its life’, in an attempt to draw the attention of the occupants of the home to their presence.

After using this old fashioned method to gain the attention of the occupants, they then proceeded to state their mission; and that is, to replace the existing prepaid meter with a so-called smart prepaid meter.
I termed their modus operandi as old fashioned because, if the ECG is of the opinion that all Ghanaians are literate to the extent of understanding the operation of their smart meters, why didn’t they send out leaflets to the various homes, stating clearly a timetable for this exercise, so that customers don’t end up giving access to their homes to unscrupulous individuals, especially in this instance that the ECG was not using a clearly marked vehicle of the Company?

Anyway, the meter was replaced. The Monday before this exercise (Monday, 4th December, 2023), I purchased Ghc 400 worth of electricity from POWERJOY Enterprise, located on the top floor of the MTN Office Building, near the University of Education, Winneba (UEW), Central Campus.
I had about Ghc 20 credit on my meter before this purchase. I accordingly loaded my meter with the additional Ghc 400 credit.

Before removing the old meter, the ECG staff acknowledged the over Ghc 400 credit on the meter, but deliberately proceeded to ask how much credit was on the meter, and they got the appropriate answer. They even asked for drinking water, and they were served from my fridge powered by the very credit that they were suspicious of. A request to charge a phone in my house because the battery was running low which allegedly served as equipment to aid their work, was turned down. If the ECG can’t charge its equipment to carry out its mandate, then it has no business being in the business of retailing electricity.

After the replacement, the attention of the ECG staff was again drawn to the over Ghc 400 credit, and they gave an assurance that the credit transfer would be effected soon. The new meter came with Ghc 30 credit.

One of the empty bottles of the water that was supplied freely to them, was left on the bonnet of my car and some debris from the old meter, strewn around the frontage of the house.
Clearly, ECG is ignorant of the fact that, cleanliness is next to godliness.

A small electronic device, the size of a wallet, was left behind with no batteries (it requires 4 AAA batteries to operate, and can also be connected to the mains via a cord), as an instrument of checking the credit balance (dial 007, then enter).

Up to the next day, Thursday, 7th December, 2023 morning, my Ghc 400 credit was still outstanding. This compelled me to pay a friendly visit to the jECG office in Winneba.

This is where it really gets irritating!
My first point of contact was with one of the cashiers at the hall, who directed me to pass through a corridor to one of the offices inside. I followed the instructions and arrived safely at the said office.

An official called Mr. Twumasi, whose attitude and conduct appear to be at total variance with the core principles of ECG, and who I presumed to be the boss of the office, was behind a computer with documents in one hand, and a lady beside him; and busily teaching the young lady.
I greeted them and Mr. Twumasi asked me my mission and I proceeded to explain the problem.
The insulting statement was when Mr. Twumasi remarked that since i claimed to have purchased Ghc 400 credit just a few days ago, I should produce the receipt as proof. I didn’t take kindly to this subtle accusation of attempting to defraud ECG of Ghc 400, and proceeded to vehemently express my displeasure to this accusation.
The question I asked, and which the ECG failed to provide the appropriate answer till date was: Can’t the ECG sit in the office and ascertain how much was on my meter prior to its removal?
And secondly, doesn’t the officials assigned to embark on this replacement exercise report back to the office on issues like this and fill out the necessary forms in order to facilitate a smooth transfer of credit from the old meters to the new ones without putting the customer through unnecessary hustle?

An initial search in my wallet for the purchase receipt proved futile. A further search in the car revealed it. I then returned to the arrogant ECG staff office (Mr. Twumasi) with it. The young lady was directed to take me to another office.
At this office, a form was filled out and a photocopy of my purchase receipt made and attached to the form, and I was asked to go, and I left.

On Friday, 8th December, 2023 morning, I checked my account, but the meter was yet to be credited, so it was necessary to pay another visit to the ECG office.
I proceeded straight to one of the cashiers to purchase credit and conclude that ECG has defrauded me of the Ghc 400.
However, the cashier told me that they only accept payment via mobile money, and upon swiping my new card, informed me that she was unable to sell the credit to me due to a system failure. I stood aside for her to serve other customers, and their cards were working perfectly.
I then returned and asked her why she was able to serve other customers, and not me? She responded that it was beyond her, and directed me to Mr. Twumasi again. I had no option other than to return to the hostile officer.

In order to avoid a confrontation, I avoided his office and went straight to the office where the form was filled out. The official there informed me that I will be called to come to their office for a token to load on my meter when they are done with all the processes involved. This was like being hit with a thunderbolt!
I asked him why I wasn’t made aware of this when he filled the form the previous day that I was there. He retorted that, that was why my contact number was taken and he also presumed that the first office I went to before I was brought to his office, had made me aware of this.
I enquired as to when my token was going to be ready, and the answer was; they didn’t know.

I then narrated to this official, my frustration at the cashier’s window in my attempt to purchase credit. I was given the contact number of a prepaid electricity vendor to contact.

The fundamental question that I asked this ECG official and got no answer was: How can a vendor be able to load my card with credit, when the ‘almighty’ ECG itself, was incapable of doing so?
I never got an answer. I was just directed to contact the vendor.

I returned to my car and made contact with the vendor and my account was credited with my new purchase of Ghc 200 after I had sent him Ghc 202.

I was advised to install the ECG app on Thursday, 7th December, 2023 to facilitate easy purchase of credit. I duly complied and installed the app. Till date (15th December, 2023), am unable to access the app, because it is pending review.

My worry with this kind of torture perpetrated by the ECG, boils down to my illiterate parents and brothers and sisters.
How can an illiterate person be able to go through this near ‘rocket scientific’ process?

Technology, as widely acknowledged, is supposed to ease most of the present day difficulties, however, from my experience with the ECG since Wednesday, 6th December, 2023, their smart technology, has been procured to serve as a torture instrument for their customers.

Alhassan Salifu Bawah
(son of an upright peasant farmer)
Farmers House
10 Vicarage Terrace
Effutuman
C/R

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