Senior Minister Yaw Osafo Maafo, early this week cut sod for the start of an interchange expected to solve much of the traffic build-up from Ofankor to Amasaman that often thicken into bumper-to-bumper jams at the Pokuase – ACP intersection, all on the Accra to Kumasi highway.
Aren’t we relieved? More expectant than relieved, actually. Our expectation is that the project will start in earnest, will continue in earnest and – most importantly – end on time and true to type. We are wary of being given a design that is not replicated in actual construction. We resent the often repeated shoddy works that are carried out in the name of project execution.
Thankfully, the Senior Minister who represented the President at the sod-cutting warned against the execution of contracts shabbily.
What about compensation of owners of property that has to be cleared to make way for project execution? Too many times, those who have erected structures in waterways, too close to roads, under high tension electricity poles – in short those owning unpermitted buildings – are paid compensation. That is compromise on crime. That, indeed, is criminal.
We live in an almost lawless society. People build at places they are not supposed to. Your plot ends at least 50 feet from the middle of the road. You should leave space between the edge of your plot and where you start your building construction. If we all do this, when road extension becomes necessary, hardly will any buildings be pulled down. Many Town and Country Planning officials, even though they are paid by the taxpayer, take bribes from those who want to develop their plots and allow them erect structures in waterways, too close to the roads or at some other forbidden places. Our governments (plural), instead of penalising these lawbreakers, condone their infractions. When it comes to pulling their structures down and asking them to bear the costs; the authorities raise loans to pay the offenders shocking ‘compensations.’ In most cases, that is. As for the Planning Office staff that take bribes, they retire peacefully, after taking their kids through prestigious schools home or abroad: anonymous civil servants!
I am at pains to enumerate some of these irregularities because, if we do not weed out the indiscretions, our chances of building a solid infrastructure and maintaining it to underpin the socio-economic advancement of this country will remain rather slim. You know, just as we have made the running of election campaigns here unsustainable; so are we making the building of public infrastructure and its maintenance too expensive to sustain. The same civil servants that condone the erection of structures at wrong places coach and connive with property owners to inflate their claims for compensation. If government set up a committee to review compensations the taxpayer has paid people whose homes, stores and kiosks were in the past destroyed, this nation would be shocked by the amounts given to the claimants. Monies paid for the destruction of boys’ quarters enabled some claimants to go put up hotels soon after. Valuation officers and other public servants who had one or another thing to do with paper pushing also smiled all the way to their banks.
If you are outraged by these; hold it: wait till you have read the next. Some of those who collect these huge compensations on the supposition that they will move away, actually, never move an inch.
When places are being mapped out for construction or reconstruction, a width of land much bigger than what the actual lanes of the lorry roads are zoned. What happens is that all structures and farm produce that fall within the mapped-out areas are paid for and owners are supposed to give way. Enter the bulldozers. Whether by omission or commission, parts of many of the structures are left standing. What I am saying is that a building that is supposed to be pulled down is made to lose some of its parts, while other parts remain standing. When the road construction is done, this building is renovated and reoccupied by the owner – or given out on rent! On the very Accra to Kumasi road that Minister Osafo Maafo gave the instruction this week, you can find tens – if not hundreds – of buildings that ought to have been totally pulled down, because they had been paid for, standing and being occupied. It is verifiable.
Touch wood! But, we should fear some of those structures being rammed into by vehicles involved in accidents in the future. Touch wood! But, we shouldn’t be too surprised, if someday, one or some of those buildings come crushing down on occupants. Earthmoving machines had pulled parts down, shaking the very foundations of the buildings. Are they still strong enough to be given more bricks, mortar and paint for human habitation?
Value for money
All I am asking for is that government must give the taxpayer and generations unborn value for money. Government should enforce the law. We should hold the government truly accountable to enforce the law. Otherwise, we will use taxes upon taxes, loans upon loans to build shoddy or too expensive roads; white elephant markets, schools and power generators etc. I am under the impression that Ghana has more written laws than her colonial master, England. Ghana has all the beautiful laws she hardly enforces; it is the reason our progress has been this tortuous and painful.
What better opportunity for a new beginning than what avails itself this weekend in the Eastern Regional capital, Koftown? Regime party, the New Patriotic Party, convenes at Koforidua to elect new – or reelect old – executives that will steer its affairs for the next couple of years. Government is, in theory, separate from party; but only in theory. In practice, government and its party are the two sides of the same coin. Indeed, it is the party that carries individuals into the Presidency, Parliament and ministerial positions. Elect crooks, lawless people, ignoramuses and vote-buyers into party leadership positions and you are foretelling the kind of government you are fashioning out for the nation. Put together responsible, patriotic and knowledgeable people and they will support the government execute the national development agenda with relative ease. In this country, don’t party chairmen, secretaries Council of State chairmen etc., attend Cabinet meetings, sack employees, and perform several functions in the name of the Executive?
One memory the Elephant family should recall throughout the 26th National Delegates’ Conference at Koforidua is that of their deceased ex-National Organiser, Major Courage Quashigah. That party stalwart used to preach that, if the nation is led by righteous people, the country flourishes, with smiles on the faces of the children, women and all. If crooks rule a nation, wailings, trials and tribulations reign. Courage picked this from the Old Testament, I’m almost certain.
Reiterating my plea that the NPP rise above the influences of money offers and clique-ism to raise a patriotic corps of national executives, permit me to borrow a leaf from Thomas Jefferson (third U.S. President – from 1801 to 1809) “The two enemies of the people are Criminals and Government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalised version of the first.”
Ghana Today with A.C. Ohene
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