You are here: HomeBusiness2015 10 29Article 390606

Business News of Thursday, 29 October 2015

Source: B&FT

Regulatory agencies woefully staffed

Nana Osei-Bonsu, CEO of Private Enterprise FederationNana Osei-Bonsu, CEO of Private Enterprise Federation

…as private sector count losses

Public regulatory agencies engaged in the issuance of permits, licences and business certificates are poorly staffed as businesses bemoan delays and their concomitant losses.

PEF say this situation coupled with bureaucratic delays is stifling the efforts of investors and growth of the country private sector.

Regulatory and licencing institutions like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Fire Service, Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs), as well as the Factories and Inspectorate Department of the Ministry of Employment have all been found to be short of technical hands to handle administering certificates and permits to businesses.

The EPA, which ensures that environmental requirements are met, for instance have only 50 technical personnel throughout the country, making the agency’s effectiveness unlikely.

Also, the Country and Town Planning Departments that works in tandem with MMDAs in the area of planning and supervision to ensure orderly development -- out of the 216 MMDAs -- has offices in 114 of them; but however have only 80 qualified technical representation throughout the entire country. This is against a standard requirement of at least five technical personnel per district.

“We need not less than an extra 300 Country and Town Planning officers to operate optimally,” said Mohammed Alhassan, Senior Town Planning Officer-Research and Policy Unit.

Similarly, the Factories and Inspectorate Department of the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare, too, has a technical staff strength of just 23 nationwide as at 2014. Presently, it operates in only seven of the country’s 10 regions.

The Factories and Inspectorate Department sees to it that working and operating conditions of businesses conform with safety standards, which according to the Private Enterprise Federation (PEF) is very critical.

“They are woefully inadequate and hence cannot perform, yet their role is very important. This is because they are going to inspect where humans occupy; their certificates are very important but they lack resources,” Nana Osei Bonsu, Chief Executive Officer of PEF lamented during a media sensitisation in Accra.

According to a study conducted by USAID in partnership with PEF, there are 145 permits, licence and registration regimes in the country. The majority of agencies involved in issuing these requirements are located in Accra.

Additionally, most of the agencies are required by law to issue permits, licences and certificates within a 90-day period -- but are mostly unable to do so due to limited staff, bureaucracy and lack of application technology. Also, businesses outside Accra usually have to transport their particulars to the capital for endorsement or to be issued with the relevant certification -- adding to the frustration faced by private investors in the country, especially those operating in other regions outside the national capital.

The inability of these agencies to deliver apt services to businesses is said to be militating against efforts of private investors aimed at creating employment as well as contributing to the country’s socio-economic advancement.

“Our members are complaining that their licences are being delayed. These delays are causing a lot of money to be lost for our businesses. It is possible that all these agencies could collaborate so that once you get started you will not be distracted,” Nana Osei Bonsu added.

The understaffing situation is expected to be aggravated in the few coming years, as the agencies are expected to lose workers to retirement -- which they might not be able to replace due to government’s efforts to cut down its wage bill by freezing employment.

Other factors affecting the agencies include absence of electronic platforms, no retention of user-fees, inadequate logistics; failure to consult the private sector in fixing charges and fees, as well as lack of decentralisation.

Nana Osei Bonsu was upbeat that when all these challenges are addressed, the private sector will be unleashed to contribute meaningfully to the economy.

“The private sector can become efficient if these administering agencies are up to their task. Any delays and hold-ups affect the private sector adversely,” he noted.

He however said his outfit is willing to collaborate with all stakeholders to lessen the delays and frustrations encountered by businesses in their quest to bring development, saying: “This is not about antagonising anyeone; in reality we want to work with all stakeholders to create a congenial business environment”.