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28 February 2017

ISODEC chief demands Parliamentary inquiry into PURC suspicious payment

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The Coordinator of ISODEC, Dr Steve Manteaw is urging Parliament to intervene and investigate a possible case of misappropriation of public funds at the Public Utility and Regulatory Commission (PURC).

Dr Manteaw who is not surprised by the report of financial irregularities and wrongful payments at the country’s utility regulators, told Joy News Editor Dzifa Bampoh PURC has failed in its core mandate to protect the interest of consumers.

He was responding to a Joy News investigation by Kwetey Nartey which revealed wrongful payments of monies into the private accounts of the Executive Director of Regulator, Samuel Sarpong.

In the first of a series of reports of an audit of financial records at the Commission it was uncovered that an amount of GH¢435, 087, made up two separate transfers were made into the personal accounts of the Executive Secretary of PURC, Samuel Sarpong.

The money was part of GHC 1, 225, 000 paid by five major utility companies to the PURC for the 2013 tariff review hearings nationwide.

The funds were supposed to be lodged in the account of the PURC, however, documents sighted by Joy News indicate that GHC271,500 was paid into Mr. Sarpong’s accounts.

Details of the deposit voucher reveal the money was paid on February 16, 2013 at the Gulf House Branch of ADB.

Former Head of Finance at PURC, Isaac Assan, who made the payments into the account, said he did this on the instructions of the Executive Secretary.

Another payment of GH¢163, 587 was also made into Mr. Sarpong’s Gulf House account on June 7, 2013. Mr. Assan told Kwetey Nettey that although it is not the norm for a public institution to transfer money into private accounts of an official, his boss thought it was convenient.

The transfers were made at a time the country was steep in darkness with a number of the utility companies said to be in debt.

Officials at the Commission are yet to officially respond to the allegations.

Speaking to Joy News Dr Manteaw who, years ago raised the issue of financial misappropriation at the Commission, said officials at the Commission can no longer be trusted to seek the interest of consumers.

Citing two major instances to back his assertion, Dr Manteaw said when the issue of unregulated and un-calibrated prices came up which led to outrageous increases in electricity prices, the PURC was totally unconcerned about the matter.

He also cited the allegation of poor water quality supplied at some point and expressed shock that the PURC rather went to the defence of the Water company instead of the consumer.

He said the  nationwide tariff review hearings, was nothing more than a manipulation of the process to manufacture the consent of some consumers to accept utility price hikes.

He said Parliament must quickly investigate the matter and bring some sunshine on the matter.

Asked if the Executive Director must step aside for the investigation to begin, Dr Manteaw said it will be premature to demand same.

He said there is no prima facie case yet against Mr Sarpong but if he is minded, he can step aside for that investigation to begin.

 

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