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Opinions of Sunday, 6 October 2013

Columnist: Ababio, Egyir

AMA Public Health Department's Negligence

.... on Noise Pollution and Abysmal Customer Service

Author: Ababio Egyir

In an evening news segment on Sunday, September 15, 2013, an A.M.A. veterinarian, Dr. Kwadwo Obeng-Wiredu, was reduced to speaking in tongues when the TV 3 newscaster inquired why fees were collected from the abattoir at Odawnaa, but his Veterinary Unit neglected to protect the public against the health hazards there.

Footage of the abattoir revealed the disgusting condition of the premises and unsanitary and illegal mode of transport of meat. At the end of the interview, Dr. Kwadwo Obeng-Wiredu said his unit would visit the abattoir soon, to which the newscaster expressed skepticism. This example epitomizes the daily gross negligence of our so-called Public Health Department.

I returned home in February 2012 after several years away to discover that the house to our immediate right had opened a liquor bar and the house in front had opened a liquor bar and a sports bar. The liquor bar in front would commence before 7:00am and break around noon, but sometimes they would not break and continue past 10:00pm. On Christmas Eve for example, they blasted their speakers at us past 1:00am the following morning.

The second bar in that house broadcast the English Premier League. Their speakers were located just below their roof on the outside wall and blasted straight into our home. Their schedule was determined by the dates and times of matches, but they usually blasted their speakers at least, an hour before and after the matches. The worst part is that the liquor bar competed against the sports bar in the same house. Consequently, on match days, the neighbourhood would be completely drowned in noise.

Like the sports bar, the liquor bar always faced her speakers at the homes across the street. After a match, she would proceed to regular TV programmes and prolong the noise into the late night. The liquor bar to our immediate right commenced around around 4:00pm and could carry on past 11:00pm. Sometimes, she would blast her speakers in the morning or afternoon as well. Her speaker too, faced our home.

All three bars preferred to face their speakers at the public instead of inward at their patrons. It was difficult to converse on the phone without plugging one ear. We had to wait until they were closed before we went to bed. The speakers were so loud that they sounded like they were right in our home. There are no words to describe the noise we endured for up to sixteen or more hours every single day.

I appealed to the owners from February until December 2012, to no avail. The one in front asked me to close my windows and increased her volume each time I pleaded with her to lower her volume. The one to our immediate right bellowed, "Don't you want me to work?" The owners were clearly ignorant of the regulations about noise levels, and as I later discovered, the so-called Director of A.M.A. Public Health Dept., a certain Simpson Anim Boateng, was himself unaware of the regulations.

I didn't know where to turn for help and so I went to the A.M.A. headquarters and was asked by the MCE's secretary to write a letter which would be forwarded to the appropriate department. As misfortune would have it, the appropriate department was our derelict A.M.A. so-called Public Health Dept. If the office of an MCE directs one to a department for assistance, then one presumes that department will provide assistance, but assistance was the last concern of our derelict A.M.A. so-called Public Health Dept. They neglect the health hazards at abattoirs; allow bars to determine their own noise levels and look the other way when homes sell liquor, but I didn't know these at the time. I wonder what public health they provide.

My first letter to the MCE, dated January 9, 2013, was ignored. I hear this is standard practice of the MMDAs. My second letter dated February 19, was also ignored and so I went back a third time and insisted my second letter be handed personally to the MCE. His office faxed that letter to the so-called Public Health Dept., and around 5:00pm on Thursday, February 28, I received a call from the so-called Director, a certain Simpson Anim Boateng.

He said somebody was on his way to assess my complaints, but that was a lie. Simpson Anim Boateng visited me the following day, Friday, March 1. I asked him the procedure for noise complaints and he replied that the bar owners would be called to his office to verify their legitimacy, and if I reported them again, then his department would prosecute them at their Fast Track court.

The bars were quiet for two and a half days, and on Monday morning, March 4, they both increased the volume on their loud speakers to retaliate for my reporting them. I reported this to the so-called Director around 8:25am on March 4, and he replied, "I will take note of it". Taking note of it meant he did absolutely nothing. I called him multiple times, day and night, weekdays and weekends, about the noise. In all cases he would lie with, "I will be there in two hours" or "I am on my way", but did not come and didn't bother to follow up the following day.

He didn't have to come himself, but he refused to even send subordinates to address my complaints. The bar owners did not go and verify their legitimacy, but the delinquent Simpson Anim Boateng did absolutely nothing. He was counter-productive because the noise had worsened, but he did absolutely nothing. I was later threatened on March 27 by two regular customers for reporting the liquor bar on our immediate right. I hear this is common, where the public side with a culprit against somebody who is trying to uphold the law.

After his multiple lies and indifference, I wrote a third letter on March 20, to update the MCE about the delinquent so-called Director. On my way up the stairs to the MCE's office, Simpson Anim Boateng yelled my name. I said I wasn't getting any help from him. He threw a temper tantrum and complained that I was going over his head to report him. Perhaps, he was unaware that he had superiors or that he could be reported to them. He was furious and blathered to his staff nearby.

I decided not to deliver the letter and returned to his office after his meeting with the A.M.A. Director. On the way to his office, he continued to whine to his staff that I was going to report him. Sammy was driving. He then exposed his ignorance about noise regulations when he said, "What you consider loud may not be loud to somebody else." He was clearly unaware that the EPA had specific guidelines about noise levels and so it wasn't up to individuals to make arbitrary determinations about what constituted noise.

At his office, he proceeded to read a newspaper instead of attempting to resolve my complaints. That was a phenomenon I had witnessed at multiple MMDAs - the reading of newspapers, listening to radio and watching TV during work hours. He then flippantly asked me to report to him if the noise continued. He had done absolutely nothing about all my calls and text messages to date, yet he asked me to report again if the noise continued. The newspaper was more important than his derelict departments's negligence of the health hazards of abattoirs and and he couldn't care less about my complaints. How much longer will this delinquent character remain on the A.M.A's payroll?

Three of his staff joined us in his office and one of them, Sammy, offered to come and register the noise level of the bars that night. Simpson Anim Boateng did not request his staff to come and register the noise. Rather, it was up to a staff to make the offer. What if Sammy hadn't offered? Then nothing would be done while this delinquent so-called Director read newspapers.

Unfortunately, we suffered load-shedding and so I didn't call Sammy that night, but I called him on several dates afterwards, and each time, he claimed to be out of town or unavailable. While at his office, the so-called Director asked his staff whether further reasons were required to prosecute the bar owners, given that they did not go to his office to confirm their legitimacy.

The fact that he asked, exposed his incompetence about how to manage noise pollution. They replied "no" but the delinquent Simpson Anim Boateng did absolutely nothing. When he visited me on March 1, I inquired about a copy of the A.M.A. bylaws and he said I could pick one up at his office. That was a lie. When I asked for a copy in his office, he said he didn't have one. Seriously, is this delinquent character the best option our entire nation has to manage our capital's Public Health Dept.? Did he obtain his position on merit?

Somebody had mentioned on the Web that he had received assistance from the EPA against a noisy church, therefore after my visit to the MCE's office on February 25, I went to file a complaint against the bars at the EPA. However, they did not visit until a month later and so I had to endure the indifference, lies and incompetence of the delinquent Simpson Anim Boateng before the EPA visited on March 26. I invited them home to explain my experiences and it was immediately obvious that they understood the nature of their tasks.

For example, they knew that bars did not necessarily operate non-stop; they may takes breaks during the day in order to attend to personal matters like shopping or rest before their late nights. They knew that bars competed for customers by raising their noise levels. This was a far cry from the incompetent Simpson Anim Boateng who had stated, "What you consider loud may not be loud to somebody else." It was a relief to be engaged by public servants who understood the nature of their tasks. They went to invite the bars to their offices to teach them the EPA's regulations about noise. The bar owners went, but relapsed and so I had to call the EPA representative for Accra West several times. He often would call the bars the same day or night to lower their noise. This improved the noise level, but the bars relapsed often.

At the end of my visit to the delinquent Simpson Anim Boateng's office on March 20, he got me in touch with the Okaikoi Environmental Health Officer, a certain Christiana Adzra. There was no evidence whatsoever in Okaikoi that we had such an environmental health officer, otherwise I would have contacted her first instead of going to the MCE's office. She visited the bars, but due to load-shedding, was unable to register their noise level. Also, due to the intervention of the EPA, the bars adopted an erratic schedule. For example, they would start loud in the early morning, lower their volume for several hours, and then increase the noise level again at night. That made them compliant during weekday work hours, but not not at night or weekends, and in addition to load-shedding, made it elusive to catch them during the day.

I didn't know then that the EPA and derelict A.M.A. so-called Public Health Dept. provided night and weekend patrol. But even at night and weekends, the bars would be very loud for a couple of hours, then quiet for a while, then loud again. This is not normal behaviour of bars. They became erratic in order to elude the authorities. The EPA's efforts had made a difference, but the bars relapsed often.

Instead of factoring in the load-shedding and erratic schedules of the bars, the indolent Christiana Adzra concluded after her visit that there was no problem. But there was a problem, even if she was too indolent to get to the bottom of it, and so I kept calling and texting her and the delinquent Simpson Anim Boateng. After several calls and texts, a couple more so-called Public Health Dept. characters came to register the noise level of the bars, but they didn't confirm with me whether there was noise. They visited at arbitrary times, which yielded no results.

To their minds, they had made an effort, but their incompetent approach yielded no results. Their visits were a waste. At the incompetent Christiana Adzra's last visit, she shouted right in front of the bar to our immediate right, "I can't hear anything" while the petition hearing was blaring. What that did was to embolden the bar to make even more noise and underscored her incompetence. After she left, one of the regular patrons who had earlier threatened me for reporting the bar, proclaimed, "Even the officer said she couldn't hear anything."

The bar then increased their volume. I reported this increase of volume to her, but like her manager, the delinquent Simpson Anim Boateng, she did absolutely nothing. This is what happens under an incompetent manager. His attributes set the tone of his subordinates. If he is incompetent, indifferent and indolent, then his subordinates will exhibit the same attributes. There are many unemployed and under-employed bright college graduates who could perform the tasks of the incompetent Christiana Adzra much better and cheaper than her bloated income, however, she is not the only waste on the A.M.A.'s payroll.

On August 9, 2013, a new congregation began all-night Friday services in my neighborhood from around 9:30pm until after 4:35am the following morning. What level of I.Q. even fathoms such a timetable? Were they not aware that those were core sleep hours? They repeated another all-night service the following Friday, August 16. There is a preacher on the bridge across the Kaneshie police station who blares his loud speakers as early as 4:00am every morning. People need their sleep before work or school.

I delivered a letter about these new menaces to our incompetent Christiana Adzra on August 20, and called her on August 27 to determine the status of my complaints and whether she had a copy of the bylaws she had promised. She said she would address my complaints, but that was a lie. She did absolutely nothing. I went to report the new noise and the incompetent Christiana Adzra's to the A.M.A. so-called Senior Environmental Health Officer, a certain Rosemary A.E. Gbadzida, on Tuesday, September 3. I thought the 'Senior' in her title implied she had authority over the incompetent Christiana Adzra, but she said she didn't.

She asked me to address a letter to The Director and deliver it to her personally, and gave me her contact number to verify her presence at the office beforehand. I called to verify her presence on Tuesday, September 10, before going to hand the letter to her. A week later, on September 17, she did not answer my call and I thought she might be occupied and so I sent a text message to determine when the preacher on the bridge would be removed: the one who blares his speakers daily as early as 4:00am from the bridge across the Kaneshie police station.

She called later in hysterics and shouted at me for contacting her on her personal phone number and asked that I physically go to her office for future inquiries. This so-called personal phone number was one I had obtained from her on September 3, to verify her presence at the office before I went to deliver my letter, and so I thought it was a work phone number. After her screaming, she said she had important things to do and hang up on me. What, in any industry or enterprise is more important than customer service? She had more important things to do? Such is the impudence and arrogance of the A.M.A. so-called Public Health Dept.

It is peculiar that the secretaries of the A.M.A. MCE and Director do not know the phone numbers of the so-called Public Health Dept. Consequently, one is asked to physically "go there, go there, go there" for simple inquiries that could be resolved over the phone. Surely, a department of the capital city of Ghana could secure a customer service number so that the public do not have to physically "go there, go there, go there"" for basic inquiries that could be resolved over the phone? Surely!

The incompetent, indifferent, indolent and delinquent Christiana Adzra and Simpson Anim Boateng have dedicated phone numbers, so is it true that the hysterical and impudent Rosemary A.E. Gbadzida, does has not have one? When she asked me to write the letter, she said she would go and address my complaints herself. When I delivered the letter to her, she downgraded her offer to "we will add it to the register". When I inquired a week later whether the preacher had been removed from the bridge, she screamed that she had more important things to do. Why did she lie initially that she would go and address my complaints herself?

It would appear the A.M.A. so-called Public Health Dept. is content to hide behind the lack of a landline to limit customer calls. And it would appear that the A.M.A. so-called Public Health Dept. is eager to limit customer calls in order to limit customer service. It is baffling that a department that claims to be overwhelmed with work due to lack of manpower, is under-worked with staff who idle and loiter at their offices. Shouldn't they rather be over-worked combing Accra to tackle the myriad health hazards that they neglect every day?

The department is apt to respond to media investigations and fond of making a publicity stunt out of the very little work they do, but on the daily basis, there is little evidence that Accra even has a Public Health Dept. There are many unemployed and under-employed college graduates who could perform the functions of the A.M.A. Public Health Dept. better than the deceitful, impudent, incompetent and indolent excesses on the A.M.A.'s payroll who currently occupy that derelict department.

In addition to his lies cited above, Simpson Anim Boateng often lied that "I will take them to court. I will take them to court", but those were lies. When I inquired about the court cases, he said, "I am working on it." That too, was a lie. He is precisely the sort of character who Ghanaians lament when we despair about our dearth of probity and law enforcement. He can look blatant wrongdoing in the face and do absolutely nothing. Absolutely nothing! He epitomises why the paper credentials of Ghanaians have yielded so little on the ground since Independence.

Many will not bother with the hassle of multiple phone calls and letters to multiple people, and so the few of us who step forward to bring issues to the public's attention should not be mistaken for raising a personal gripe. This is a major error of our society which discourages others from speaking up. Apart from the bar to my immediate right, every menace I have cited affects more than me. For example, when an ignorant preacher blares his speakers around 4:00am over neighborhoods or the derelict A.M.A. so-called Public Health Dept. collects fees from an abattoir, but neglects the health risks there - those are not personal issues because the consequences affect many.

Is it legal for one household to operate two bars - a liquor bar and a sports bar? Why does the A.M.A. so-called Public Health Department do absolutely nothing about it? Is it legal to sell liquor from a residence? Why does the A.M.A. so-called Public Health Department do absolutely nothing about it? Bars and churches blast their speakers over neighbourhoods day, night and early morning hours. Why does the A.M.A. so-called Public Health Department do absolutely nothing about it? Music sellers blare their music into schools. Why does the A.M.A. so-called Public Health Department do absolutely nothing about it? preachers and vehicles roam neighbourhoods with very loud speakers. Why does the A.M.A. so-called Public Health Department do absolutely nothing about it? Abattoirs are neglected to jeopardize the public's health. Why does the A.M.A. so-called Public Health Department do absolutely nothing about it?

The pervasive gross negligence of the A.M.A. so-called Public Health Department explains the ongoing public health deterioration of Accra. Meanwhile, the incompetent and indolent Christiana Adzra sits idle in her office. When I went to deliver the letter to her on August 20, she was slouched in her chair with her skull couched in her hand while another person was fast asleep at another desk. All my complaints have been within walking distance of her desk, but no, she won't go.

The pathetic and hysterical creature, Rosemary A.E. Gbadzida, tells you she has more important things to do than customer service. She should not utter such words to any member of the public; any member of the public! And the deceitful so-called Director, Simpson Anim Boateng, reads newspapers in his office. Last night, September 25, the bars to my right and across the street blasted their speakers past 10:00pm, and this morning, the preacher on the bridge across the Kaneshie police station commenced with his loud speakers at 4:38 am.

Last Sunday, a new container store blared music past 11:30pm. Two nights earlier, a congregation held night services until about midnight. These and other issues remain ignored while the derelict A.M.A. so-called Public Health Dept. hides behind the lack of manpower and landline to neglect Accra.

It is highly unlikely that the lies, impudence, incompetence and indolence cited above began with me. By the time a department reaches this low level, it has been rotting for a long time. This despicable level of service will continue to fester until we see some action; not words; action from the MCE. That entire waste of a department should be sacked, especially the aforementioned.

Although I have never witnessed fish rot, the closest I have come to experiencing it is with the A.M.A. so-called Public Health Dept. From head to tail, that whole rotten derelict department should be sacked because what prevails there is very unpalatable to our ever-developing Ghana.