Opinions of Tuesday, 12 September 2017
Columnist: Kwadwo Baffoe Donkor
It is very disheartening how some Ghanaians who earn their livelihood from a company established by the state sit idle and in some cases contribute negatively to the destruction and extinction of state assets, especially companies.
Hundreds of examples of such sad stories of companies that offer employment to thousands of Ghanaian youth abound and the traces of all such hitherto growing concerns are dotted around the country as evidence.
It is public knowledge that anything that is owned by the state is handled anyhow and not kept or maintained the way people handle private property. It, therefore, comes as no surprise when public or state-owned companies collapse after their infrastructure has been left to rot through mismanagement and lack of maintenance protocol.
Most Ghanaians have always assumed that anything belonging to the state can be mishandled and used anyhow, after all, “it is our money that has been used to build or buy it and if it spoils, government will replace it”, the usual unpatriotic Ghanaian refrain goes.
One such institution which is currently facing a similar challenge as a result of lack of maintenance is the Metro Mass Transit (MMT) Company Ltd.
From a total of more than 1,200 buses, the company currently has less than 500 buses that serve the entire country. Most of the buses have broken down, with some of them unaccounted for.
The company was established by the erstwhile Kufuor Administration to cater for mostly the vulnerable in society and to provide transportation to the unreached areas in the country.
It was one of the social intervention programmes of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government to bring some relief to the people. As such, the company was not charging commercial rates for its services, making the patronage of the buses very affordable and within the reach of all.
The company provides transportation services for the populace and in some instances haulage services as buses are used to carry goods from one point to another.
It is the preferred means of transportation for most people, particularly those from the inaccessible areas where the services are available. Almost all the regional capitals have an office that serves the region coupled with various terminals and bus stops.
Owing to its central and strategic location, the Kumasi Depot of the company is be one of the largest regional offices in the country aside from the national headquarters in Accra. The Kumasi Depot serves almost the entire country as buses move from Kumasi to every part of the country, from the north to the south and from the east to the West.
We are currently in the rainy season and one would have expected that as one of the busiest terminals of the company in the country, measures would have been put in place to ensure the comfort and safety of the passengers and their staff. However, the contrary is the situation.
During the recent visit by the sector minister to the place on a rainy day, all the struggle passengers go through on a daily basis was brought to the fore. Surprisingly, the terminal had been operational for over a decade but not a single stone had been put on the dusty area which turns into large pools of water during the rainy season.
The entire terminal was impassable, with pools of water everywhere. One has to walk gingerly to be able to navigate.
The passengers’ waiting areas do not have enough chairs, and even those available were in bad condition and not fit for passengers to sit on.
According to the Deputy Managing Director of the company in charge of Operations, Mr Albert Adu Boahen, the Kumasi Depot used to have a total of 147 buses but now has only 63 operational ones.
He said most of the buses had broken down and hinted that as a measure to ensure the buses were well maintained by the drivers, the company would assign buses to drivers who would take over all responsibilities of the buses.
That, he said, would ensure that the buses were kept in good condition and be well maintained to last longer.
He explained that the previous practice where drivers did not know the buses they would drive the following day after close of work was not helping in the tracking of the drivers who mishandled the buses.
From outside, the depot looks full with buses and busy. However, upon closer inspection, one would realise that most of the buses are broken down, with some of them just fit for scrap.
According to some of the workers of the company, the government was to be blamed for the state of affairs of the company as it kept playing politics with the company instead of running it as a business.
They said the managers deliberately allowed things to deteriorate so that they could sell the buses to themselves at a cheaper price for their own private use.
One of them alleged that at some point in time, the buses were discarded as scrap and sold to people who later repaired them and were using them for commercial purposes while the company was running down.
For starters, the company can pave the premises of the depot to make the place more conducive and business-friendly for passengers.
The waiting area could also be paved and more comfortable seats installed to serve the numerous passengers who patronise its services.
It is an undeniable fact that the Kumasi depot is the nerve centre of the company at the moment as it serves as a link between the region and the rest of the countries.
During his visit, the Sector Minister, Mr Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, announced that the government was procuring some new buses to augment the company’s fleet. The workers have also suggested that they should be consulted on such issues.