PURA launches Consumer 148-Helpline

Monday, July 14, 2008
The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) Thursday launched its Consumer Affairs Help Desk Service tagged 148.

This new service is designed to put into place an impartial and effective consumer complaints resolution mechanism, related to communications, electricity, water and sewerage services as mandated by the PURA Act 2001.

Speaking at the occasion, Alhagie B. Gaye, Director general of PURA, said that the PURA Act 2001 established PURA to regulate the Telecommunications, Electricity, Water and Sewerage, Broadcasting and Transport sectors. He added that, it was then decided from that inception through the Regulatory Framework Study for The Gambia that, PURA would practically regulate these sectors with the exception of Transportation and Broadcasting.

“Hence one of the objectives is to protect the interest of consumers and the public utilities. Since 2004, PURA has devoted a significant amount of time and resources to develop its capacity in terms of human capital and ensures that the fundamentals are in place for an effective regulatory institution .PURA is also challenged to ensure universality of services, which requires that utility services are accessed by all Gambians irrespective of their geographical location” he said.

Mr Gaye then made it clear to the public that, their customer care platforms are ready and developed to effectively and efficiently handle complaints from customers." But one golden rule or principle that underline PURA’s complaints resolution mechanism is that, the Helpdesk is not a first port of call for complaints.

This means that all complaints must first be lodged with the regulated service provider, but when the specific time has elapsed, the complainant can use 148 services," Alagi Gaye emphasized.  He stated that consumers of electricity, water and sewerage services who are dissatisfied with services rendered to them by any operator or service provider, have the right to seek remedy of the situation by lodging a complaint to the Pubic Regulatory Authority.

Abdoulie Touray, chairperson of PURA Board of Commissioners stated that, a very important part of PURA’s work is to ensure that the Gambian consumers get value for money. “Since to examine rates and fees chargeable for the provision of regulated public services is among PURA objectives, the institution’s focus on utility regulation in The Gambia has ever been onTtelecommunications, Electricity, Water and Sewerage” he said.

Mr Touray added that, "PURA has been challenged over the last three years, especially to provide rates and fees for the provision of regulated services, initiate and conduct investigations into standards of services provided by public utilities, promote fair competition amongst Utilities and also to recommend and administer a licensing system for Public Utilities. PURA has steadily transited from infancy to adulthood with notable achievements along the way". He used the occasion to highlight some of the  achievements of PURA.

In his launching statement, Malick Njie, secretary of state for Health and Social Welfare on behalf of President Jammeh  said ,the ‘Helpdesk’ has been set up to ensure that where consumers have failed to have their complaints resolved by a service provider or a regulated Utility, then PURA can intervene as part of its regulatory functions and oversight of Public Utilities as provided for by Section 13 (1) (c) of the PURA Act 2001."
He added that all service providers are expected to guide their consumers to lodge complaints with them before they resort to lodging a complaint with PURA,as this will ensure that every service provider focuses on ensuring and guaranteeing customer satisfaction directly with their clients. He explained that PURA, through their in house Customer Query Logging Database (CQLD), would log all complaints and documents and take action to resolve the complaints they receive. Gabriel Latjor Ndow, director of policy, strategy and consumer affairs explained the importance of the CQLD and Help Desk during a visit into PURA offices shorthly after the ceremony.

Moses Campbell and Momodou Lamin Sompo Ceesay, electrical engineer and senior electrical engineer in PURA respectively, gave detailed explanation and demonstration on the use of energy saving bulbs while Alex Dacosta chaired the ceremony.

Author: by Yunus Saliu & Sheriff Barry