As Abuja Disco Trains 3800 Workers on Corporate Integrity

by ThisDay

Chineme Okafor writes that the recent decision of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) to drill its 3800 employees on its new business standpoints could go well in mending the broken customer-service provider relationship that unhealthy deep-rooted systems in defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) foisted and left on Nigeria’s electricity market

The Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) which is also referred to as Abuja Disco and has the franchise rights to distribute electricity to customers in areas that include Abuja; Niger; Kogi and Nasarawa recently concluded a series of town hall meetings to educate its about 3800 workers on its new corporate standpoints.

The town hall meeting which lasted over a sequential period of four weekends at each of the distribution zones, also afforded the management of the Disco, a rare opportunity to have under one roof, all of its employees for the first time since taking over the running of the network from the government in a power sector reforms and privatisation programme which elapsed on November 1, 2013.

From Abuja which kicked off the sessions on September 19, to the last of the sessions in Minna, Niger State on October 10, AEDC’s top management team had all the opportunities to sell to its workers, the company’s new business perspective which its Managing Director, Neil Croucher had repeatedly explained to be customer care and satisfaction.

Overtime, Croucher had stated that the customers were at the heart of the Disco’s operations, hence, the need to continually push for their satisfaction.

“We recognised when we came at the earlier stage that customer care and customer service was very poor in the electricity sector, and also with the AEDC.

“We needed to improve that, but before we did that we needed to improve the systems that underpin the operations of any such electricity organisation.

“So, we have replaced our billing and vending systems. We have put in IT and management information systems. With that now having being commissioned, the next stage was to roll out vending, to make sure that customers have much easier access to purchase electricity.

“Of course, as we roll out hundreds of meters over the coming years, it is important that as we do that, we also must create the convenience so that customers can easily buy their electricity,” he had once said on the Disco’s drive for customers’ satisfaction.

However, in Abuja for example over 1,200 employees from AEDC’s headquarters and its three business regions of Abuja north, central and south who were in attendance at the session reportedly engaged the management in an open, honest session which was facilitated by a human resource consulting firm, Aloe and Squires Consulting.

At the session, a principal partner in Aloe and Squires, Seun Faluyi, whom AEDC contracted to set an atmosphere for productive engagement, stressed that the management was after bold, creative and frank ideas from its employees on how to productively engage them on its new business character.

AEDC’s decision had become extremely necessary following employees repeated disregard to customers’ feelings in the country’s privatised electricity market. This poor attitude was carried over from defunct PHCN which through its monopolistic influences, encouraged widespread disregard for standard corporate governance and customers’ care in its various business units.

Accordingly, AEDC considered that a continuation of such system, would in no time wreck its business plans for the network.
Speaking in Abuja, Croucher said that
the Disco’s intention to become a world class utility providing power with a round-the-clock reliability electricity supply to its customers can only be achieved when all of its stakeholders: board, management and staff, paly their roles as a team.

“We envision that our company will soon be recognised as the best employer in Nigeria. This may take some time; but we’ll get there. For now, we cannot pretend to have completely changed that negative perception given to ‘NEPA’ and ‘PHCN’ by electricity consumers in this country.

“However, with strong commitment to our ideals of honesty, integrity and hard work, we shall completely change that negative perception”, he said.

Croucher had earlier revealed the Disco’s composition of a new governance structure to improve on productivity within the network.
He in his presentation spoke on various aspects of AEDC’s operations which include the extent of decay it inherited at takeover; the over 350 transformers and other facilities worth about N2 billion it provided to boost the network infrastructure; the setting up a reliable customer relationship management centre; upgrade of the billing and vending systems of the network to accommodate the planned rollout of consumer meters on a largescale; as well as the automated meter reading (AMR) facility being provided.

Croucher equally explained that the Disco has improved on its health and safety standards and would soon embark on a scientific customer enumeration exercise to amongst other things, identify its eligible consumers and plug possible loopholes for revenue and capacity leakages.

On the leakages, Croucher in his presentation dwelled extensively on the Discos Aggregate Technical, Commercial and Collection losses (ATC&C), which he said the management has reduced from 59.85 per cent that it was when it took over, to about 45 per cent over a two year period.

The ATC&C figure, he said would however be reduced further to 19 per cent by 2019, hence, the need for its employees to imbibe standard corporate governance ethics and practices.

Similarly in Abuja, renowned productivity coach, Fela Durotoye who was also recruited by AEDC to school its workers on dignity of labour and value of productivity, in his charge, explained the need for both employer and employees to collectively pursue the Disco’s common desire for excellence in its operations.

Additionally, issues of concern brought up by employees in Abuja were subsequently found to be representative of issues experienced across the Disco’s six regions.

Employees had highlighted extant issues such as insufficient work equipment; poor personnel ratio to customers’ complaints; delay in provision of work materials and delay proper means of identification to avoid customers’ incessant suspicion and harassment on ground of impersonation as some of their most pressing challenges.

They equally called for a review of their remunerations and other welfare related issues which they hope management will take up in line with the new character of standard corporate governance.

To drive home its desire to chart a new relationship with its customers, one which it expects its workers to embrace, AEDC also unveiled its new corporate emblem. It thus said that the content of the new emblem represents the beginning of a new era in its relationship with its customers.

Accordingly, the new identity represents a completely transformed Disco in customer service delivery; management-employee interactions; and staff engagements with other stakeholders. Croucher noted that the new culture would drive performance and productivity in AEDC into the new phase of Nigeria’s electricity market.

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