PURC Biting Too Late: Implementing Directives Will Have Chaotic Consequences

The Africa Centre for Energy Policy has been following the renewed discussion on the electricity tariffs occasioned by a software malfunction at ECG. In a statement issued on the 24th of May 2016, the PURC directed the ECG to suspend their new billing software. However, ACEP believes that implementing this directive will be very chaotic to the extent that ECG will have to completely uninstall the new software and install their old one, if PURC agrees that power should be sold between the time of the suspension and when the challenges with the new software are rectified. PURC therefore failed to analyze the consequences of their directive. A freeze on billing on the other hand, will cut power to many consumers, particular prepaid consumers, until the software is corrected. By ordering suspension of the software PURC is agreeing that consumers have been over-billed. But PURC failed to apply the full strength of the Act that sets it up. Suspension of the software is not enough. PURC should compel ECG to comply with the section of the PURC Act which requires the utility to adjust consumers’ next bill with the excess amount or pay cash to them (Sec 27). Failure by ECG to comply is also an offense and punishable by a fine or imprisonment (Sec 38h). We agree with PURC that steps should be taken to reconnect consumers who have wrongfully been disconnected by the ECG.