Nana Kofi Oppong-Damoah, Head of Communication at the Ministry of Energy has been caught red-handed with utility debts and abuse of tenancy rights.
The Ministry Energy officer who assumed the role of a Consumer responsibility advocate, urging users of electricity to pay their bills regularly to ensure uninterrupted supply of power, has done the opposite.
He has been allegedly dragged to the Madina District Court and later office of Alternative Dispute Resolution(ADR) over unpaid bills to the tune of little over a Ghs19,000.00, combine of electricity and water.
Nana Damoah who work at the Ministry with oversight responsibility for Power Distribution Services (PDS) refused to pay light and water bills for a period of 18 months that he stayed in a rented three –bedroom and a boys- quarters house at Salem Estates, Maledjor (off Adenta-Dodowa Road) in Accra.
Francis Attah Antwi – Siaw, reporting from the Madina District Magistrate Court, Accra said,
Nana Damoah admitted at the Court presided over by Ms Afua Tordimah that he had left a total debt of GHC 19,219.98 as electricity bill at the Salem Estates facility he occupied for two years.
Consequently, this led to the power supply being cut off to the house. However, he later paid GHC5, 000 to PDS, reducing the bill to GHC14, 219.98. Not only that he also owed GHC3,800 for water bills.
The case was filed at the Court on May 23, 2019, by Sylvia Afari–Sefa, wife of Dr Afari–Sefa who are the owners of the said property. It was first heard at the Court on May 30, 2019. This time, Nana Damoah, who had previously failed to appear before the Rent Control officer at Adenta in Accra, showed up in Court. Mrs Sylvia Afari–Sefa was also present.
After briefly listening to both parties, the presiding Judge referred the case to the Arbitration Section of the Court for a settlement based on mutual agreement, and for them to come back to the same Court with what they would agree on.
The Judge asked the defendant, “Are you still in the house or you have left; do you owe or you don’t owe? “My Lord, I owe,” he answered. The Judge further queried, “And you do not want to pay the bills? You know what? This matter should not have been here in the first place for settlement,”
Deciding on what to do next, she directed, “Please, I am referring this matter to the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) for settlement. There you will have enough time to explain yourselves and come out with an amicable settlement. Whatever, you agreed on is binding on the Court because the ADR has the powers of the Court to adjudicate cases. The final agreement reached by both parties will have to be signed by you and be brought back before me for adoption by the Court.
The Judge therefore rescheduled the case to June 19, 2019, to be heard at the ADR. On the same day after the Court hearing, Nana Oppong-Damoah, who had proved adamant to honouring payment of the bills, surprisingly rushed to pay in full the outstanding debt of GHC3,800 he owed for water, but without the reconnection fee.
On June 19, 2019, Dr Victor Afari-Sefa, who has been domiciled in Benin, came down to Ghana to appear and present his case before the ADR, as his wife, Sylvia Afari-Sefa, had also travelled outside the country. Nana Damoah was also there.
Dr Afari-Sefa told the court that Nana Oppong-Damoah as at the time of leaving their property had left a bill of GHC 19,219.98 for electricity and GHC 3,800 for water.
According to him all attempts, including a visit to the Chief Director at the Energy Ministry and the intervention of the Deputy Minister in charge of Power, Hon. William Owuraku Aidoo, to get his former tenant to pay the bills, and for water and electricity supply to be reconnected to his house proved futile.
He said, he ended up at the Adenta Rent Control Office to lodge a complaint against Nana Oppong-Damoah on March 29, 2019. But to his surprise, Oppong-Damoah failed to honour all invitations from the Rent Control Office.
Dissatisfied with his conduct, the Adenta Rent Control Office referred the matter to the Madina District Magistrate Court on May 3, 2019.
Below is the full presentation Dr Afari-Sefa made at the ADR.
43 SALEM ESTATES UTILITY BILL DEBT PAYMENT COURT CASE
RE: TENANT: NANA DAMOAH1. My Lord, the accused rented our 4 B/R house located at Salem Estate, Maledjor (off Accra-Dodowa Road) for 2 years from April 15, 2017 – April 14, 2019.
2. MY LORD, I am surprised that the accused who is the Head of Communications at the Ministry of Energy, who goes on TV and Radio stations “preaching” that citizens should pay their electricity bills for improved services decides not to pay his own bills at our rented premises that he vacated on April 14.
3. We took the case to the Adentan Rent Control on March 29,2019. The 1st hearing was on April 12 2019. He failed to show up at the appointed time. Failed to hand over our keys to us on April 13 as mutually agreed upon.
4. On April 14, 2019, gave us a postdated cheque for GHC 23,000 to cover all utility bills in the name of our mediator (who personally also knows the accused) in the person of Mr Bright Adu Okyere. Cheque, however, bounced on the due date of April 26 (rent control hearing date). The cheque was dishonoured as he seems to have called the Bank to instruct them to do so prior to the mutually agreed due date specified on the cheque.
5. Rent control gave us a letter to the police to serve him for the 2nd hearing on April 26 (Exhibit A). He again failed to show up and brought an excuse letter through a friend of his by name Emmanuel. Case postponed to May 3, 2019. He again did not show up that day.
6. Finally handed over property keys to us on April 27, 2019.
7. Emmanuel made part-payment of GHC 5,000 for electricity bill on his behalf later in the noon of the same day, May 3, 2019.
8. Case referred to Madina District Magistrate Court on May 3, 2019.
9. We wanted the Court to be the last option as he has never disputed that he owes the said bills, except that he is just not making a conscious effort to settle the outstanding bills fully and timely and keeps breaking his promises.
On May 13, 2019, we decided to report him to the Chief Director of the sector Ministry, given his critical position in the Ministry for a possible amicable settlement. We were told his salary is not paid via the Controller and Accountant General’s Department as is the case for regular ministry staff. He subsequently reported himself to the Deputy Minister for Power.
10. Deputy Minister intervened and decided to sort out the electricity bill with the PDS through the transfer of his outstanding electricity bill to his current rented premises at Westlands, Accra and ask him to pay the outstanding bill for water. Out of respect for the Deputy Minister and based on the contact he had made on his cell phone with PDS before us, we on May 15, 2019 signed a joint letter to PDS for debt bill transfer from the metre at our rented house to that of the accused person’s newly- rented property’s metre.
Over one month now, we still have neither water nor electricity in our house (2 months after his exit: Total rent value of GHS 2,000 for the period lost). We will now have no contact from him for Ghana Water Company and PBS and wonder how reconnection of these services can be done without our knowledge or providing access to our rented house.
11. The filed case at court on May 23, 2019. The 1st hearing at Madina Court was on May 30. Case referred to today (June 19) for arbitration by sitting Judge. On the same day, he surprisingly paid the full outstanding debt for water but not the reconnection fee, which we understand is only payable at the Dodowa office before services can be reconnected.
12. Unlawful entry to our house on June 7, 2019. Not so clear what he wanted.
13. It is over 2 months now since his rent contract ended and still neither water nor electricity is reconnected in our house. Needs to pay reconnection fee for water and outstanding electricity bill of GHS 14,219.98 + reconnection fee for electricity as it does not appear to us that PDS can indeed transfer bills to his presently rented premises (he is not the landlord at the Westlands apartment)
14. I pray that this honourable Court will force the Head of Communications at the Energy Ministry to pay the outstanding utility bills at our property as soon as possible for us to make the house inhabitable for other tenants or for other purposes. I am also not based in Ghana and have to always travel to the court at my own cost.