A digital payment system designed to offer customers of electricity an opportunity to pay or buy power at their own convenience has failed to yield the desired results.
The system was introduced by Northern Electricity Distribution Company Limited (NEDCo) with the aim to provide customers, especially prepaid users, the ease to self-service, including at odd hours.
With an assurance to provide a reliable and easy way to buy power, the system which included mobile app, web portal and short code was introduced in February 2022.
However, nearly two years into the operations of the system, the story is different, with frustrations now dampening the interest and confidence of customers who were initially enthused about the introduction of the digital infrastructure meant to be a saviour at odd hours in the night or while it is raining.
Enquiries conducted by the Daily Graphic, coming from concerns raised by some customers indicated that the only efficient feature on the NEDCo digital system was payment.
The system is designed and managed by the Broadspectrum Digital Payments Ltd (BDP), a service provider which is licensed and regulated by the Bank of Ghana (BoG).
NEDCo was formed out of the Northern Electricity Department (NED) of the Volta River Authority (VRA) with the responsibility to oversee the northern electricity distribution operations which was ceded by the then Electricity Corporation of Ghana.
It presently covers over 64 per cent of the country’s land area including Northern, Savanna, North East, Upper East, Upper West, Bono, Ahafo, and parts of Oti, and Ashanti regions.
Some of the customers, who interacted with the Daily Graphic team, described the system as problematic, and added they would rather move to the office to buy power instead of using the digital system.
That, they said, was because after payment through the digitised platforms, power would never be restored unless the customer in question followed to the NEDCo office to complain.
A customer, who gave his name as Opong Kyekyeku, stated that customers were told that the new system would eliminate the need to physically visit the offices of the power distributor, but the reality was a completely different story.
These platforms, especially the PowerApp, have given me more headaches than anything since I downloaded it on my mobile phone. I paid over GH¢350 worth of prepaid credit about four months ago and in about five days, power was never restored,” he said.
Another customer, Kofi Bekoe, said NEDCo did not think through before introducing the digital payment platforms because it was the worst ever.
“When you make a purchase for power and it does not reflect within an hour, it means your money is gone.
“I would encourage anyone who has not downloaded not to do so because it is a waste of time and rather resort to paying or buying power at their office,” he said.
When the Daily Graphic contacted NEDCo, its Public Relations Officer (PRO), Maxwell Kotoka, admitted that there were challenges initially, but said those challenges were in the past as the power distributor and its service providers had made progress on the performance of the platforms.
He explained that the data available showed the number of failed transactions on the platforms were reducing, indicating that the challenges were being surmounted.
“It’s a new thing that had been introduced so it came with a few challenges with more complaints in the earlier days but overtime, we have worked with the service provider and other stakeholders to reduce the failure rates,” he said.
This report is produced under the DPI Africa Journalism Fellowship Programme of the Media Foundation for West Africa and Co-Develop.