Ghanaian press focuses on upward review of electricity, water tariffs, others

The upward review of electricity and water tariffs for the first quarter of 2023 announced by the Public Utilities Regulatory…

The upward review of electricity and water tariffs for the first quarter of 2023 announced by the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) is one of the leading stories in the Ghanaian press on Tuesday.The Graphic reports that the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) has announced an upward review of electricity and water tariffs for the first quarter of 2023.

The new tariffs, which take effect February 1, 2023, will push electricity up by 29.96 per cent across the board for all customers while water increased by 8.3 per cent.

The commission, however, approved varying rate adjustments including some reductions for selected industrial and commercial consumers as part of the ongoing restructuring of the existing water rate structure.

A statement issued on Monday, January 16, 2023 and signed by the Executive Secretary of the PURC, Dr Ishmael Ackah, said the new tariff review was occasioned by exchange rate volatility, rising inflation, generation mix and weighted average cost of natural gas.

On September 1, 2022, the commission approved a 27.15 per cent increase in electricity and 21.55 per cent increase in water.

It was under a major tariff adjustment for the period.

The Executive Secretary said the new review was in conformity with the quarterly tariff review mechanism and guidelines as communicated in the Commission’s August, 2022 major tariff review decision.

He said the quarterly tariff review mechanism sought to track and incorporate changes in key factors used in determining natural gas, electricity, and water tariffs.

He said the objective was to maintain the real value of the cost of supply of these utility services and ensure that utility companies do not under or over-recover.

According to him, under-recovery has negative implications for the ability of the companies to supply service to consumers, and has the potential of causing outages of electricity (DUMSOR) and water supply.

The newspaper says that the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) mobilised GH¢75.5 billion domestic revenue last year, GH¢3.60 billion more than it was tasked to collect.

The collection was a five per cent increase over last year’s target of GH¢71.94 billion.

The feat also meant the domestic revenue the GRA mobilised was 31.5 per cent more than what was collected in 2021.

The Commissioner-General of the GRA, Rev. Dr Ammishaddai Owusu-Amoah, in an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday, attributed the performance to the rigorous efforts in the application of technological initiatives which brought about transparency and efficiency in tax administration.

He also cited the commitment of staff and the cooperation of taxpayers, adding that although the 2023 target was yet to be set, the authority was now poised to double its effort this year.

In 2022, the authority was tasked to collect tax revenue of GH¢80.30 billion.

However, in the 2022 Mid-Year Budget and Economic Policy Statement, the target was revised to GH¢71.94 billion, a reduction of GH¢8.36 billion, representing 10.4 per cent.

“I am happy to announce that by the close of the 2022 fiscal year, the authority had collected total tax revenue of GH¢75.54 billion, as against the revised target of GH¢71.94 billion, exceeding the target by GH¢3.60 billion.

“This performance represents a nominal growth of 31.5 per cent over the tax revenue collected in the 2021 fiscal year,” he said.

The Ghanaian Times reports that the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has justified a $773 million back-tax bill it imposed on telecommunication company, MTN.

MTN in an earlier statement contested the back-tax bill, de­scribing it as inaccurate.

According to the leading telecom firm, it is a tax-compliant corporate citizen and the tax liability notice of GH¢8,209,603,842.14 (US$773 million) issued against it by the GRA is unacceptable.

“In this regard, from the base component of the assessment (that is, excluding penalties and interest) on MTN Ghana’s analysis, the GRA infers that MTN Ghana under declared its revenue by more than approximately 30 per cent over the five-year period from 2014 to 2018,” it said in a statement.

“The GRA audited MTN Gha­na for the period 2014-2018, using a third-party consultant as well as a new methodology based on call data records (CDR), recharges, and other data.

“MTN Ghana strongly dis­putes the accuracy and basis of the assessment, including the methodology used in conducting the audit. MTN Ghana believes that taxes due have been paid during the period under assessment,” it explained.

Responding to the issue, the GRA maintained that the action was right in law.

“Section 36 of the Revenue Administration Act 2016, (Act 915), mandates the Commission­er-General to audit the tax affairs of a person; and it is in accordance with this provision that the Authority conducted a Tax audit on MTN Ghana for the tax period 2014 to 2018” a statement released by the GRA said.

“The audit was conducted as required by law adhering to the principles of fairness and transparency,” it added.

The statement said, “Section 42 of Act 915 also prescribes the ways in which a person can object to a tax assessment that is served by the Commissioner-General”.

It said in the case of MTN Ghana, GRA followed due process in serving a Notice of Assessment and had engaged MTN Ghana as required by law to ensure that it communicates the basis of assess­ment as well as the several avenues available for objection as required in Section 42 of the Revenue Administration Act.

The newspaper says that more than 70,000 students will benefit from the Students Loan Trust Fund (SLTF) for the 2022/2023 academic year.

This represents a 100 per cent increase over the 2021/2022 academic year figure of 32,744 students.

The prospective tertiary students across the country would be able to access the SLTF portal either through the organisation’s website or by downloading the Students Loan App.

The Chief Executive Of­ficer (CEO) of SLTF, Nana Kwaku Agyei Yeboah, who announced this to the media in Accra on Friday, attributed the increase in the number of beneficiaries to the intro­duction of ‘No Guarantor Policy’ last year.

He said efforts were being made to ensure that many students had access to the loan facility to support their education.

Nana Agyei Yeboah stated that there were currently 32,744 beneficiaries on the SLTF from 110 tertiary in­stitutions across the country, to whom GH¢64,645,575.00 was disbursed in the 2021/2022 academic year.

Mr Yeboah encouraged students to take advantage of the new policy to access subsidised financing for their tertiary education.

The government, through the SLTF, launched the ‘No Guarantor policy’ in June 2022, with the sole aim of easing the difficulty applicants faced in accessing loans to support their education in tertiary institutions.

With the introduction of this policy, student loan applicants no longer need guarantors to access the loan.

It is, therefore, expected that the removal of the guarantor requirement would lead to an increase in the number of students who can access the loan.