The Northern Regional Health Directorate (NRHD) of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) in Tamale has been without electricity for the past two weeks, bringing administrative work and other activities to a halt on the premises.
The situation has arisen from the directorate’s inability to purchase prepaid power after it was moved from the postpaid metering system and has to now struggle to raise funds to purchase power for its offices.
The switch from postpaid to prepaid is also part of an ongoing exercise by the Northern Electricity Distribution Company (NEDCo) of the Volta River Authority (VRA), to replace most of the postpaid meters with prepaid ones.
Also, the Daily Graphic gathered that the NRHD has an unpaid electricity bill of GH¢717, 000, so the prepaid meter was installed to prevent the debt from further piling up.
Some members of staff of the NRHD who spoke to the Daily Graphic on condition of anonymity, said their offices had been without electricity since October 19, 2019 after it was disconnected by officials of NEDCo who were responsible for electricity supply in the northern sector of the country.
The workers indicated that efforts by management to restore power to the premises had been unsuccessful as NEDCo said the decision to replace the postpaid meters with prepaid ones was a directive from the Ministry of Energy to install prepaid meters in all government buildings.
The unavailability of power is affecting the day-to-day operations of the directorate, particularly with the safe storage of vaccines.
Vaccines for immunisation against yellow fever, which are administered to people who want to travel abroad at the regional health directorate, are being kept in a poor condition due to the absence of electricity and also making it impossible for the vaccination unit to serve the public.
Also, the situation has stalled the processing of clearance letters for employment for nurses who completed their training two years ago as they are due to expire next month, if they are not processed for the beneficiaries.
Again, workers at the directorate who have decided to report for work despite the unbearable warm conditions in their offices, face further inconvenience of not being able to use the toilets in the block because there is no power to pump water into an overhead water tank that serves the washrooms.
Lack of electricity supply
A visit to the regional health directorate by the Daily Graphic yesterday saw some workers in some of the offices reeling under the heat of the hot weather condition prevailing in the north at this time of the year.
The Daily Graphic also sighted a letter dated October 30, 2019 and titled: “Lack of Electricity Supply And The Serious Negative Toll It Is Having on Work at the Northern Regional Health Directorate,” addressed to the Director-General (DG) of the GHS to inform him about the situation and signed by Dr John Berton Eleeza, the Regional Director of Health Services.
“This is to inform you that the Northern Regional Directorate has been without electricity supply since October 19, 2019. This is as a result of the decision of VRA/NEDCo to replace the postpaid meter of the RHD with a prepaid meter. All efforts and engagements with the VRA/NEDCo to remedy the situation has so far not yielded any fruitful results,” the letter stated.
No budgetary allocation
A top official at the NRHD who also pleaded anonymity, told the Daily Graphic that there was no budgetary allocation to buy power, hence management’s inability to purchase power after NEDCo’s replacement exercise.
“Efforts to get the NEDCo to reverse the decision and to restore power to the RHD have proved futile,” the official said.
Accrued unpaid bills
The Corporate Communications Manager of VRA/NEDCo, Mr Maxwell Kotoka, who also confirmed the story, indicated that the NRHD as of September 2019, was indebted to the company to the tune of GHC717, 000 through electricity bills that had accrued over the past six years.
Mr Kotoka explained that the replacement of the postpaid meter with a prepaid one at the NRHD was part of an improved service delivery plan and an effective and efficient revenue mobilisation exercise being embarked upon by the utility provider to resolve the growing indebtedness to the company by consumers.
He said the exercise to replace postpaid meters with the prepaid is not targeted at critical areas which were considered ‘crucial’.
“In the health sector, we are not fixing prepaid meters at theatres, laboratories and other critical areas in hospitals; however, the meters are being changed at the non-critical areas such as the regional health directorate where it is only administrative work that takes place,” Mr Kotoka explained.
The NEDCo Communications Manager further indicated that before NEDCo took that decision, it wrote to the NRHD to remind management about its mounting debts and how best it could settle it, but there was no response to that letter.
“We were left with no choice but to install the prepaid meters at the health directorate on Saturday, October 19, and when staff of the directorate reported for work on Monday, their offices had no electricity and that was when they decided to respond to our letter. From the look of things they had made up their mind not to pay for the power consumed until we took that decision,” Mr Kotoka indicated.
Prepaid at state agencies
The Communications Manager intimated that the NRHD was not the only government building where they had installed prepaid meters but they had also done that at the Northern Regional Coordinating Council (RCC) which was the apex of all government institutions in the region.