Last week's ministerial promise to deal with officers who supervised the reckless construction of structures in the country's cities has claimed its first victims.
Following the announcement made by the Minister of Local Government, Rural Development and Environment, 14 building inspectors of the Ga West District Assembly have been interdicted for laxity in the performance of their statutory duties, leading to the construction of unauthorised structures in the metropolis.
Seven persons lost their lives, while scores of others lost their property in the floods which hit Accra west recently.
A follow up by the ministry revealed that a number of the inspectors had allegedly extorted various sums of money from developers in the course of their duties and that the “rapid assessment has confirmed that the development control and the staff had been lax in the performance of their statutory duties”.
The sector Minister, Mr Stephen Asamoah-Boateng, who confirmed the action, gave the names of the 14 inspectors as Messrs Emmanuel Addy, Chief Building Inspector; Samuel Antwi, Building Inspector; Joe Sai, Building Inspector; Fred Agyemang, Planning Officer; Commey Myers, Estate Officer; Francis Agbo, Surveyor, and Lawrence Avevor, Assistant Architect.
The rest are Messrs Dan Bill, Building Inspector; Andrews Ohemeng Boakye, Building Inspector; Gideon Amarkai, Robert Josiah and Vincent Laryea, all technical officers, as well as Victor Mensah, the District Engineer.
In addition, the ministry has set up a three-member committee of enquiry, under the chairmanship of Dr Justice Seth Twum, a Supreme Court judge, to further investigate the officers. The other members of the committee are representatives of the Office of the Head of the Civil Service and the Attorney-General's Department.
The terms of reference of the committee are to determine the allegations against the interdicted persons and others yet to be identified and hold public hearings in regional capitals for any member of the public with complaints and information to come forward.
The others, Mr Asamoah-Boateng said, were to examine the bottlenecks which existed in the acquisition of building permits, examine the development, monitoring and enforcement processes, examine the institutional arrangements for managing development in the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs), as well as any other issue which the committee might find necessary to investigate.
Mr Asamoah-Boateng said the committee had been given three months to complete its work and make appropriate recommendations.
He said the rapid assessment was currently ongoing in all the MMDAs, not only the Ga West District.
He said a number of factors, such as inadequate drainage facilities, choked drains, the construction of buildings in waterways and general indiscipline, were responsible for the flooding in Accra, especially in many communities in the Ga West District and the western part of Accra on June 2 and 3, 2007.
The ministry, Mr Asamoah-Boateng said, had earlier in a statement expressed Cabinet's concern about the laxity in enforcing development and building regulations by MMDAs, warning assembly officials of severe consequences for any acts of commission or omission in ensuring the control and enforcement of development.
The Ga West District, he said, was divided into three zones, each manned by a building inspector for the purpose of development control and enforcement, adding that the three inspectors worked under a chief inspector.
Mr Asamoah-Boateng said development monitoring was fully decentralised to the zonal level, with no formal reporting mechanisms to the central administration, resulting in weak control over inspection at the zonal level, with supervision non-existent.
“All the staff involved in development control, enforcement and management have been in the district for over 10 years. The long stay in one's station has perpetuated bad habits as a result of familiarity with developers,” he noted.
He explained that there was pervasive staff involvement in the development application process and that “such staff act as intermediaries between the assembly and developers”.
Mr Asamoah-Boateng further stated that there had been many instances when such members of staff deliberately withheld plans for as long as a year in order to extort money from developers, saying that that delayed the process of permit procurement and frustrated and promoted unauthorised development.
In the meantime, he said, the ministry was embarking on vigorous local government reforms with a view to speeding up the decentralisation process.
“This will then enhance the capacity of staff, assembly members and district chief executives to take appropriate decisions on the ground.
He said human resource development was part of the process to build capacity at the local level with training and practical work, as well as transfer of personnel from the central government to the MMDAs.
“The overall objective is to encourage responsiveness of service delivery and ownership through participation by local communities. The ministry is committed to a performance framework based on public satisfaction in services to all Ghanaians,” he stated.
Story by Emmanuel Bonney