Customers of the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) have over the past few days been left disturbed by power challenges as a result of technical challenges that has affected ECG’s prepaid metering system.

Many users of such meters in several southern regions of the country have had to face the brunt of this unfortunate issue.

In all, there have been major challenges with ECG prepaid meter users in areas within the Volta, Kumasi, Accra, Takoradi, Tema, Cape Coast, Kasoa, Winneba, Swedru, Koforidua, Nkawkaw, and Tafo enclaves, unable to top-up their meters.

Many people have been left without power for days not because they have not recharged their meters, but because the service provider has been unable to fix a major technicality for days.

When it started:

At the beginning of September 2022, some prepaid meters including BOT, ALPHA, and E-CASH, were not responding accurately to power purchased by customers of the ECG.

This was after the implementation of the PURC-approved tariff that took effect from September 1, 2022.

What the ECG said early September:

The Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) issued a statement on the matter after it began in September.

In the statement, it indicated that it recognized the complaints and stated that it had resolved some technical challenges that impacted the prepaid meters of its customers some days earlier.

“However, customers whose prepaid meters run into negative balance after purchasing electricity should please note that our technicians are making frantic efforts to visit your premises to remedy the situation by reprogramming the meters to ensure the refund your credits and restore power supply,” the statement added.

Prepaid issues resurface as customers are left in darkness:

On September 30, 2022, the problems with ECG prepaid cards emerged again.

Some Ghanaians in some parts of the capital, Accra, had to stay in darkness over the unavailability of prepaid electricity.

The stranded customers said the “unplanned blackout” caused by the unavailability of credit had distorted their activities.

For many others, their businesses had been greatly affected by the situation and for which reason they wanted an immediate solution.

Below are a few tweets from some affected customers

My sister just returned from the ECG office and guess what she couldn’t buy the power. I heard they said someone hijacked their system. I know on Monday we will hear NDC person hacked into their system. In any serious country by now the energy minister will step down.— Thug Motivation 103???? (@Thugmotivation0) October 1, 2022

Bro the ECG thing bo be joke o????????— Duncan???????? (@_Duncannn) October 1, 2022

Just left the ECG office. Prepaid can still not be bought so they’re taking phone numbers and addresses of customers so they can come to your house and turn the lights on for you. I don’t know how many people they have on the field to be able to execute this task but we’ll see.— Wa Beyoncé (@Zeinat_Issahak) October 1, 2022

This picture will tell you The ECG is the most useless company in Ghana…from network problem to printer damage…huh
I want to ask our leaders if it’s a curse to be a Ghanaian.— Down Ball (@DownBall12) October 1, 2022

The ECG has resorted to going to customers homes and connecting them after making payment.

Somehow I see illegal connection. Cos my meter still reads zero.— 3.142 (@lips_pi) October 1, 2022

Speculations of hacking?

While this situation persisted, there were speculations of a system hack.

Officials of the National Security and National Cybersecurity were reported to have been called in to help the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) address the technical glitch that had resulted in the inability of customers to purchase prepaid credits.

This was also because it had emerged, from sources, that there was enough power to be sold with only some particular meters unable to be topped up, a situation that led to customers thronging most ECG offices to vent their frustrations.

A report further said that it had gathered from sources within ECG that the systems have been compromised by external sources who were controlling the source codes and refused to release them to the ECG.

This aside, it added that aside the immediate goal of the ECG working to restore the system, "ECG is currently undertaking a comprehensive audit of its system to establish what caused the technical failure that affected service to many of its prepaid customers around the country."

The specific role of the two security outfits was to help get to the bottom of what happened to the system with the view to avert future recurrence.

ECG responds:

The ECG again responded to concerns raised by ECG, indicating that the challenges had to do with the date “functionality drifts” in those meters and that they had been identified and resolved.

"Some of the systems have been fixed but not all," Charles Nii Ayiku Ayiku, General Manager in charge of external communications at ECG later said in a radio interview when the issue resurfaced.

While explaining further that the challenge had not affected all of its customers, he reassured the public that "We are working very hard to make sure that we get all the systems in place… but some of the systems were not able to respond. So, it is not all our customers that are experiencing this challenge."

ECG extends working hours:

On Saturday, October 1 and Sunday, October 2, 2022, the ECG extended its working hours at its district offices so as to attend to the growing numbers of its customers who were facing these challenges.

“The Electricity Company of Ghana once again wishes to assure our cherished customers that our team is working assiduously to rectify the anomaly and ensure a smooth service provision,” a statement said.

PURC works with ECG to resolve problems:

The Public Utility Regulatory Commission (PURC), which provides guidelines for rates to be charged for the provision of utility services, has assured customers that it is working closely with the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) to resolve utility service struggles.

While the ECG says it is resolving the challenge that has interrupted the purchase of electricity credit, the PURC, in a statement issued on Thursday, September 29, 2022, said that the commission has noticed the concerns raised regarding vending machines and promises to work with the ECG to find a quick resolution to the matter.

"The Public Utilities Regulatory Commission PURC) has noticed with concern, challenges experienced in vending, by consumers on ECash and PNS Metering Systems of the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG). The Commission is closely monitoring the situation and in full discussions with the service provider to address the issues," the statement read.

Some customers still in darkness:

This said, there still remains quite a number of people

who have not been able to get their problems resolved. Some customers, despite ECG's assurances still have issues buying power through the prepaid cards.