Most of the people at PURA’s Public Hearing held on Saturday at Father Farrell Hall in Westfield vehemently condemned the proposed tariff increase by National Water and Electricity Company Limited (NAWEC), the sole provider of electricity, water and sewerage services in The Gambia.
The Public Hearing, which was organized by the Gambia Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), was meant to obtain public comment on an application that they (PURA) received from NAWEC to increase the current tariffs of electricity, water and sewerage services.
“PURA received an application from NAWEC on 27th December 2010 for an increase in electricity, water and sewerage tariffs,” said Mr Maleh Saine, Officer-In-Charge of PURA.
He explained that PURA Act 2001 and the Electricity Act 2005 mandated PURA to consult with all stakeholders on matter of such importance and sensitivity that affect both the operator and the consumer. “Initial consultations have also been held with Central Government, industrial and commercial consumers,” he said.
Mr Saine said PURA is mandated specifically under Section 18 of the Electricity Act 2005 which states that “the Authority may in accordance with the provisions of the Regulatory Authority Act determines, review, approve, modify or refuse the tariff and the terms and conditions of the service provided by licensees.”
“Through hearing your views it will enable us to arrive at a proper decision in ensuring that we have available, affordable and accessible services in respect of electricity water and sewerage services,” said Mr Dodou Bammy Jagne, the Chairman of PURA Board of Commissioners.
Mr. Alhagie Jallow, Finance Director of NAWEC, said the company is proposing certain prices for the different services; for Greater Banjul Area (GBA) “we are proposing 36% increment for electricity, 26% for water, and 27% for sewerage.” He said the objective of NAWEC is to provide affordable electricity, water and sewerage services to Gambian peoples. “We know if we are to charge very high prices, under normal circumstance, it will not be affordable, and the objective of providing these basic services is to make it available and affordable to the people who are going to use them,” he explained.
When the Moderator of the occasion, Mr Peter Gomez, opened the floor for comments and questions relevant to the proposed tariff increase from the people, one speaker after the other strongly condemned the tariffs increment, but NAWEC said they are left with no other option given the ever increasing cost of both light and heavy fuel and lubricants, increasing cost of energy purchased from the Intermittent Power Producer (IPP), and high of cost labour and maintenance.
NAWEC officials said if the company is to remain in operation, they have to increase the tariff because “the current revenue base of the company is not able to sustain the company’s operational obligations resulting them to short term borrowing from commercial banks at exorbitant cost.”
Later on, as the program was coming to an end, the Moderator announced that those who are in support of the proposed tariff increase to raise their hand, but unfortunately, only two people raised their hands in support of the increment.
The comments and concerns of the people are to be incorporated for due consideration in accordance with Section 20(C) of the Electricity Act in making a final determination.
The Public Hearing is the sixth of the nine steps that PURA is to take before final tariffs come into effect.
However, shortly after the Hearing many people who spoke to Marketplace said that NAWEC has already reached a decision to increase the tariff, “so whether the people agree to it or not it will be increased, this is just a formality”, Ousman Gibba said. “I know they will increase, but if they do that it is going to affect average Gambians, because many people are already struggling to pay for the current tariff as it is,” said Demba Jarju.
The last three steps before the new tariffs come into force is for PURA to take a decision with regard to the increment, publish the new tariff, and finally the tariff come into force.
Given the fact that the proposed tariffs increment was received with a strong condemnation from the general public will PURA give NAWEC the go ahead to increase the tariffs?