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22.01.2005 Press Review

EDITORIAL: Waste Management in Accra - Problems, Problems, Problems

By Ghanaian Chronicle

IT must have come as a bit of a surprise to most Ghanaians that no workable alternative solution had been put in place before the cancellation of the contract agreement with Canada's Group Chagnon City and Country Waste and the Accra Metropolitan Authority for waste management in the nation's capital.

Evidence is now emerging which show the dearth of cool, rationalizing seniors within the top echelon of our City's administration, particularly in the area of law, a discipline that may have restrained such precipitate action. To think that one could walk away from a contract without grave consequences, particularly with a company that emanates from one of Ghana's donors, is grave indeed. In the considered opinion of The Chronicle, such shallowness betrays the level of thinking that appears to be taking root at the Attorney General's Department which has a huge pile of cases of such nature nestling at the tables of successive attorney generals. Shame.

The Group Chagnon case has become an albatross on the neck of the Metropolitan Authority. As expected, they have sued, and AMA is in a bind. The scores of brand new trucks that were brought into the country have been shared like booty among our own local contractors who enjoyed the opportunities that came with these seizures, and took over what they believed to be the 'lucrative' business of clearing, hauling and managing the waste that have been engulfing Accra.

This paper's findings indicated that while Group Chagnon was contracted to handle the construction of a landfill and manage the waste at $30. 28 per tonne, the sub-contractors, 14 of them, had accepted to perform this task for $5.20 a cent, as far back as July 2001.

The trucks allocated to these contractors were strictly on hire purchase agreement. Strangely, even though the AMA purposed to deduct ¢7 a month towards the cost of the hire purchase agreement, they failed to do that. The result is that the financing of the trucks has grown to a deficit of ¢9 billion, and climbing.

The Chronicle showed photographs of several of these trucks that had broken down at the sites of most, if not all of the contractors. To make matters worse, all the contractors are owed hundreds of millions of cedis; some are even owed in excess of one billion cedis.

It will be stretching credulity if these contractors who are complaining over unpaid monies would even consider using the payment they receive to go and fix the trucks they had been using over the years. Some of the contractors would simply fold up, as some have, and others would find more pressing personal priorities. These debts would eventually become a public charge, which means the taxpayer's money would be used to repay a debt, which ha come about because a few politicians failed to do their work well.

This is unfortunate, but what is troubling is that, this is proof that the problem of sanitation and waste management in the capital is unlikely to be resolved any time soon.

As recently as August last year, the Acting Minister of Finance, Mr. Osafo Maafo responded to the Minister of Local Government's desperate application for release of HIPC funds to support the Waste management service in Accra.

While obliging his request, the Minister noted quiet rightly that a high percentage of revenue collected by the AMA finds itself in the private pockets of staffers of AMA.

This issue has attracted criticisms of many news organizations over the years, particular during the era of the previous administration, and the expectation has always been that the new Government would do better in every sphere. We are highly disappointed.

We are disappointed and do agree with Mr. Osafo Maafo in his letter of August 11 to the local Government Minister, Honourable Adjei Darko that 'it is morally unacceptable and unfair for us to allow these revenue leakages to go on while we take the easier option of using the taxes of poor nurses and teachers among others to support waste management in the Accra Metropolitan area".

It would be difficult for anyone to make a case for AMA. Health is not valued until sickness comes, and the current state of waste and filth in Accra is such that an epidemic cannot be ruled out in certain areas of the capital. The problem has engulfed everybody, and it appears the only option is to do some house cleaning and a radical overhaul of the AMA. Heads must roll, and certainly an investigation must be commissioned into this mess so that the guilty parties be exposed and punished.

There must be a binding performance based service contract with any individual or corporate body that is awarded the business of handling the waste problem of the city. The current system is not working, so change must of necessity come to AMA. It appears there are no options

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