The tragic consequences of the weekend's flooding in some parts of Accra have turned the heat on building inspectors and planning officers, with a ministerial promise of sanctions and massive demolition of wrongly sited structures.
Outraged by the loss of seven lives and many homes to the floods, the Minister of Local Government, Rural Development and Environment, Mr Stephen Asamoah-Boateng, has directed District Chief Executives (DCEs) to deal with their planning officers and building inspectors who condoned and connived with developers to build on waterways and at unauthorised places.
Responding to concerns raised about the inability of district assemblies to enforce building regulations, he made it clear that the time to act was now, to avoid what he called the preventable death of people during heavy rains, particularly in parts of Accra.
The Minister further directed that sanctioning the offending officials should begin with the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) and the Ga West District Assembly whose areas of jurisdiction were hit by the weekend's floods.
He recalled Cabinet's concern over the growing laxity in the enforcement of planning and building regulations by metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) and indicated that the tendency had given rise to substandard and poorly constructed houses/structures, often at flood-prone and other environmentally sensitive areas, without regard to planning and building regulations.
Mr Asamoah-Boateng said in order to have a proper grasp of the situation on the ground, he had directed the Town and Country Planning Department and the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) to undertake an assessment of the floods which hit parts of Accra at the weekend in order to recommend appropriate remedies to the government.
He promised that the outcome of the assessment would be accorded top priority by the government.
"If the findings of the two organisations implicate district planning officers and building inspectors in their statutory functions, they will be sanctioned," he warned, and hinted that developers who put up structures on waterways and at unauthorised places would not be compensated in the event that those structures were pulled down.
The ministry, he stated, would impose severe sanctions on any staff member of the MMDAs for any lapses, acts of omission or commission in the performance of his or her duties.
Similarly, Mr Asamoah-Boateng said any MMDA which failed in its duties would be held accountable for any lapses as a result of ineffective management, control and enforcement of planning and building regulations.
He said the recent directive to assemblies to enforce building regulations was a manifestation of Cabinet's frustration with the apparent lawlessness in the siting of structures in the country.
Mr Asamoah-Boateng said he was always worried that people who were appointed to make life worth living for Ghanaians rather allowed everybody to do what he or she pleased.
He said there was information that some assemblies had undermined their statutory functions by allowing a few unscrupulous workers and their accomplices to flout simple regulations.
When he was reminded that in the past similar directives had not been respected, including one from the then Ministry of Works and Housing that structures on waterways, including a church building at Kpehe, were to be demolished, the minister said, "I am going to act this time round and those who build in flood-prone areas will receive no compensation in the event of the demolition of the structures, while officers who sanctioned those structures will be penalised."
"Until the government is firm in dealing with recalcitrant developers, nobody will respect the laws," he added.
He extended his condolences to the families of those who lost their lives during the floods at the weekend.
The Local Government Act 1993, Act 462, expressly confers development planning, management and control of responsibilities and functions on MMDAs and makes specific provisions for the enforcement and control of physical development within their jurisdictions.
Five of the dead had been identified as Richo Quao, 30, Madam Millicent Sarpong, 37, a kenkey seller, and her daughter, Anita Tanoh, 18, both residents of Kwashibu, Ewurabena, 24, and her mother, whose name was given only as Auntie Joyce, 50, both residents of New Gbawe.
Source: Daily Graphic