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10.01.2005 Regional News

AMA in Deep Trouble

By Ghanaian Chronicle
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... over arrears to solid waste contractors

DESPITE a couple of warnings from the Minister of Finance, Mr. Yaw Osafo-Maafo to the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) to put its house in order for the management of solid waste, the assembly has woefully failed to act on the orders.

Currently, the AMA is indebted to Solid Waste contractors running into billions of cedis. Documents available to The Chronicle indicate that, in 2003, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MOLGRD) had to plead with the Ministry of Finance to pay an amount of ¢10 billion to waste management contractors, who had worked for the Assembly for over a year without payment and had threatened to embark on a strike action for their money.

However in 2003, things became worse, when the Solid Waste Management contractors almost abandoned their work due to outstanding arrears amounting to ¢17 billion owed them by the AMA, a development which embarrassed government because of the accumulation of waste in the city.

Again, the (MOLGRD) had to plead with (MOFEP) to pay the contractors to enable them continue their work, and spare the government the unprecedented embarrassment that had received much publicity from the international media.

This time, the Minister of Finance, Hon. Osafo-Maafo was not comfortable with the inability of the AMA Assembly to generate funds to pay for the solid waste.

" I consider it morally unacceptable and unfair for us to allow these revenue leakages to go on while we take the easier option of using taxes of the poor nurses, teachers and farmers to support waste management in the Accra Metropolitan area," he said.

The Minister continued, "We are prepared to assist you to resolve the current waste management crisis, but before then, we must all be very clear in our minds that revenue measures need to be put in place to ensure that there is no recurrence of the embarrassing problem ever again."

The Chronicle can report on authority that since the MOFEP, through MOLGRD, paid for the AMA waste management debt of over ¢17 billion due the contractors in 2003, the Assembly had not been able to pay a pesewa to the contractors for work done in 2004 despite several warnings.

Amazingly, whiles the AMA could not generate funds to pay for their debts and went begging for money to pay legitimate debts, they were bold enough to request the MOLGRD which secured funds from the (MOFEP) to deduct 10% to settle their contractors' debt.

The Chronicle's sources at the MOFEP revealed that, the contractors vehemently resisted this move, claiming that AMA had been indebted to them for the best part of two years, without paying any interest to them. As a result, they rejected AMA's request to deduct the debt at source.

This was through the supply of waste management equipment to them. Again, the paper's sources at the MOFEP told us that the Ministry had suspected underground dealings with regard to the list of contractors vis-à-vis the amounts that were submitted to them for payment.

For example, whatever the reasons for AMA's submission of bills on two contractors namely VICMA WASTE Company and AKO WASTE Management to the MOFEP to pay them, only God knows. However, it was discovered later that they had been over-paid by about ¢ 200 million and ¢ 46 million respectively.

Due to support from the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, AMA's CEO, Hon. Agyiri Blankson had shifted his legitimate responsibility on the (MOLGRD), very much against his earlier focus.

The Chronicle's investigation revealed that before Mr. Agyri Blankson took over the Assembly, his predecessor Hon. Solomon Ofei Darko had drawn up a comprehensive policy to tackle the city's solid waste problem, but the current AMA CEO abandoned that policy to embark on an unworkable mass cleaning exercise, which faded away within weeks of implementation.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Blankson refused to answer any of the questions this writer put to him. However, he directed him to the chief director of the Assembly, who made it virtually impossible for him to reach him in any way possible, either through his cell phone or his office.

If public officers appointed into office and paid with the taxpayer's money continue in such manner, the citizenry should wonder just how the disturbing problems of waste and filth could be dealt with.

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