Regional News of Monday, 12 November 2012
A Consumer Rights Advocate, Kofi Capito has warned that a tragedy far more devastating than the Melcom disaster would befall the country if measures were not put in place to ensure strict compliance with building codes.
He said there were standards regarding how buildings should be constructed and what materials are to be used but stressed that while many developers flagrantly ignored these standards, authorities mandated to enforce them were also failing to do their work.
Participating in a discussion on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show Monday, on the Melcom shop disaster which claimed 14 lives, Mr. Capito asserted, “Something bigger than this Melcom thing is going to happen in Ghana.”
The five-storey Melcom Shopping Mall at Achimota collapsed Wednesday, 7 November 2012, killing about 14 people.
Amidst suggestions that the disaster was caused by negligence as to the safety of the building, city authorities have started taking step to assess public buildings are safe.
Mr. Kofi Capito said failure to ensure that the collapsed Melcom was built according to safety standard was symptomatic of the general lax of regulatory institutions in the country. “Every institution in Ghana does not work,” he claimed. He accused the Ghana Standards Authority of giving “mediocre excuses” for its failures.
But the Director of Testing Division at the Ghana Standards Authority, Kwabena Acheampong explained they were only mandated to set standards for the right products to be used in every endeavour, including building and construction. He however maintained they were not a regulatory body and can therefore not enforce the standards they set.
“…We set standards and then there are institutions that have to use the standards to enforce them. We set standards, we don’t enforce because we are not a regulatory [body]…”
“…We set standards for the materials that they use in the construction industry and the civil engineers and the structural engineers, they will determine the type of iron rods you have to use…” he added.
Kwabena Acheampong pointed to the Works and Housing Ministry as the body mandated to ensure the standards are complied with, adding that consultants and civil engineers must also ensure that contractors follow the standards.
Mr Kofi Capito, unimpressed by Mr Kwabena’s explanations, insisted that state institutions must do their work and stop shifting blame.
Identifying political appointments to key institutions as the reason for the inertia in regulatory institutions, Mr. Capito said it was time to stop employing people on the basis of their party affiliation - a phenomenon he said was not limited to one political party.
“We can’t have somebody who doesn’t have any idea of the institution that he is going to head, running that institution because his party is in power…” he stated.
Mr Capito said the public must hold public institutions accountable when there are failures such as the one that led to the Melcom shop disaster.