Readers have been asking what PURA can do about the numerous complaints made by the public at the recently held consumer parliament at the Buffer Zone.
The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority derives its existence and authority from the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority Act 2001.
13.(1) The functions of the Authority are to –
(a) provide guidelines on rates and fees for the provision of regulated public services;
(b) examine rates and fees chargeable for the provision of regulated public services;
(c) protect the interest of consumers and of public utilities;
(d) monitor and enforce standards of performance by public utilities;
(e) initiate and conduct investigations into standards of services by public utilities;
(f) promote fair competition among public utilities;
(g) conduct studies relating to economies and efficiency in the provision of regulated public services to consumers;
(h) collect and compile data on regulated public services and their provision necessary for the performance of the Authority’s functions;
(i) provide advice in respect of regulated public services and their provision;
(j) maintain a register (which may be in electronic form) of public utilities and the services they provide;
(k) publish, in such manner as it considers appropriate, information relating to the Authority’s functions and activities;
(l) recommend and administer in accordance with this Act, a licensing system in respect of public utilities;
(m) provide advice or assistance to a public utility to assist or enable the public utility to comply with a requirement of this Act or of any licence;
(n) prepare or cause to be prepared any relevant documentation (including drafts of any required legislation) necessary to give the Authority the power to regulate public utilities in accordance with this Act; and
(o) perform such other functions as may be imposed on it by any other legislation.
The question now arises: What powers does PURA possess in performing its functions?
The powers are stipulated in section 14 subsection (1) of the Act.
“The Authority has powers to –
(a) require a public utility to furnish the Authority with information in relation to its business and the regulated public service it provides;
(b) require a public utility or an employee or agent of a public utility to appear before and furnish the Authority with information relating to the business of the public utility and the public service it provides;
(c) appoint, consult and seek the advice of any person or body (including a Department of State or other agency of Government) whether inside or outside The Gambia;
(d) establish committees and other bodies (which may consist of or include persons who are not members or employees of the Authority) with the responsibility to undertake specified functions on behalf of the Authority;
(e) require and have access to the records (including a data storage device) in the possession or under the control of a public utility;
(f) make an extract from or a copy (in any form) of a record in the possession or under the control of a public utility; and
(g) to do such other things as are necessary to enable it to carry out its functions and as are conducive or incidental to the proper discharge of those functions.”
As clearly indicated in section 15, PURA is an independent institution not subject to the direction or control of any authority whatsoever:
“The Authority shall not be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority in the performance of its functions or exercise of its powers under this Act and shall act in all matters and at all times impartially.”
In short PURA is an independent and impartial authority.
See the next edition issues of what complaints can be raised and how they can be addressed by PURA.