VRA thermal plant
VRA thermal plant

The government, as part of measures to manage the debt accumulation by the energy sector, is restructuring the operations and asset of the state electricity producer, Volta River Authority.

With effect of this new policy direction, government intend to sale off the thermal plants of VRA to private individuals.

This is to allow VRA focus on hydro power generation so as to also help cut it debts accumulation through the purchasing of crude oil and gas to power the thermal plants.

According to the Deputy Finance Minister, Kwaku Kwarteng, the sale of the majority stake in specified thermal plants owned by the VRA is to realign the authority’s focus on solely the management of hydro plants.

Mr. Kwarteng noted that “over the years, we allowed the VRA to stray into the provision of energy through thermal plants.”

“The long and short of it is that we want the VRA to focus on what it is best at doing; management of the hydro plants. That is what traditionally they have been good at,” he explained.

However, Mr Kwarteng has refuted assertions that the government blindsided staff of VRA with its adverts for the sale of a majority stake in specified thermal plants owned by the VRA.

The Minister argued that government’s plans were contained in the budget statement which was in the public domain.

“The people including representatives of the workers have looked at this budget statement. Nobody should pretend that this was some strange policy that was sprung on Ghanaians,” Mr. Kwarteng asserted.

“There has been consultation with many stakeholders on this subject. During the budget preparation, we spoke with many experts,” he added.

The government also engaged with “some of the senior level officers of VRA” and some of these engagements “have been running for years,” Mr. Kwarteng said.

“You cannot always go down and organize workers’ forums and say that this is what government wants to do; do you agree?… This new requirement that anytime you are making a decision on any entity, you need to go and organise public forum with the workers there is strange to me.”

But, The Senior Staff Association of VRA, had, noted that the advert came as a surprise to all the staff of the VRA.

“We were not consulted. We were not engaged in any way so we have no input in what the government is trying to do,” Cephas Duse, the Chairman of the Senior Staff Association of VRA stated.

Mr. Kwarteng, however, extended an olive branch, saying the government was ready to explain its position to the VRA staff.

“We are happy to engage the workers and to explain the rationale for these decisions and that it is for the good energy sector that we are taking these steps. That kind of engagement, we are willing to do.”

“But the suggestion that we should have sought the approval of workers before proceeding, and that if anybody disagrees with government policy then somehow there is a problem with the policy, is something I do not accept.”

This policy direction was announced by the Finance Minister in the 2017 budget in Parliament and the advertised the sale of at least a majority stake in specified thermal plants owned by the VRA formed part of the “implementation of a policy that has been announced in a budget statement and that has been approved by Parliament,” Mr. Kwarteng said.

The government had decided that the VRA was not doing a good enough job with the management of the thermal plants, hence the recent move that has upset some workers of the VRA.

“The management of these thermal assets by VRA has not been as we would have wanted it and most of these plants are indebted and if you look at the energy sector indebtedness, nobody can say, as a country, we have managed these thermal assets as well as we should have. Therefore, this policy intervention is to address this.”

With the $2.4 million bond to tackle the energy sector, limiting the constraints brought on by the management of the thermal pants would also ensure Ghana doesn’t have to borrow again to offset debts, the Minister pointed out.

“This decision is part of a comprehensive arrangement to deal with the energy sector indebtedness and energy sector mismanagement to ensure that dumsor and the problems associated with energy delivery are consigned to history.”

-Adnan Adams Mohammed