General News of Thursday, 8 November 2012

Source: Adomonline

Bureaucracy, probable cause of Melcom disaster – Kwabena Agyepong

A senior engineer and former government official has identified the ‘unnecessary’ bureaucracy in Ghana’s offices, especially at the permit granting offices as a major possible contributing factor for the collapse of the huge structure that used to house the Achimota branch of leading retail chain Melcom yesterday.

The six storey building completely collapsed at about 9:30am on Wednesday November 7, 2012 trapping dozens of workers, shoppers and passersby. As at 11:30 am on Thursday, over 50 victims had been rescued, with at least 5 more confirmed dead by emergency services workers who rushed to the scene and worked overnight. Rescue workers are still toiling to rescue any more survivors, with emergency rescuers also on their way from Israel with specialised equipment.

Preliminary reports by structural and other engineers have questioned the structural integrity of the now collapsed building, with particular emphasis on the lack of iron rods in the beams and supports, as well as the overall quality of construction.

Former Presidential Spokesperson Kwabena Agyei Agyapong, who was speaking on Adom FM’s Dwaso Nsem morning show on Thursday November 8, 2012 believes many builders and contractors, frustrated by the months of red tape that tends to accompany the search for a simple approval or otherwise of building plans and permits, have resorted to short cuts and at times completely ignore laid down safety measures.

He is therefore calling for an “urgent streamlining of physical planning and building regulations”, as well as an examination of the competences of the officials charged with issuing permits and approvals especially at the district, municipal and metropolitan level.

“I know estate developers would be ready to seek appropriate approval, but the bureaucratic processes, which could take months, force them to cut corners,” he complained, adding that even when approvals have been given the relevant officials fail to enforce the necessary regulations to ensure the right things are done.

Expressing worry about the comments being made about the disaster by various government officials, Mr Agyepong doubted that even the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, perhaps the most important local government authority in the country, has comprehensive knowledge about spatial developments within its jurisdiction, and a forward looking plan for the future.

Also contributing Kwesi Pratt Jnr, Managing Editor of Insight newspaper wondered what the response would have been like if the disaster had been on a wider scale, as in an earthquake, given that it has taken over 24hrs to rescue victims from just one building.

‘Some time back I heard the Fire Service don’t have ladders that reach up to the 5th floor but now we are building structures 12, 13 floors high. What would we do if there is a problem up there?’

Mr Pratt commended government for providing a fleet of ambulances to the emergency services, but called for the actualization of the dream of a former health and defense minister, Dr Kwame Addo Kufuor, for the construction of a helipad at the 37 Military and Korle Bu hospitals for emergency airlifting of seriously injured persons.