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Opinions of Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Columnist: Kwaku Badu

Does NPP really want to start drafting 2021 handover notes?

The controversial mandatory towing levy, according to our honourable parliamentarians, is a bright new idea that has never been tested anywhere on this planet.

Well, for the sake of balanced annotation, let us agree that the policy is novel, and not derivative. The crucial question however is: how expedient and pragmatic is the supposedly novel idea?

In any case, where is the evidence that the generation of new data, or assuming responsibility for inventing a supposedly bright policy idea from scratch, will be more pragmatic than ideas and data already developed by others?

Apparently, there is a school of thought that views the challenge of increasing global competition from the emerging economies as an impetus for increased social reform and change in the emphasis of public policy (Blair, 2006; Brown, 2006).

In my view, however, the compulsory towing levy is an impractical idealistic scheme for correcting a societal problem.

Trust me, the utopian policy such as the anticipated mandatory towing levy would never be embraced in any true democracy. It could only be imposed on the citizens of a communist state.

Elsewhere, though, the towing of abandoned vehicles is the responsibility of insurance organisations and other authorised private towing companies.

It should never be made compulsory. The existing insurance firms and other private towing companies must be empowered to undertake such services independent of the state for an agreed fee.

As observed by Juma and Clarke (1995), “the policy-making process is by no means the rational activity that it is often held up to be in much of the standard literature. But the metaphors that have guided policy research over recent years suggest that it is actually rather messy, with outcomes occurring as a result of complicated political, social and institutional processes”.

It would appear that the compulsory towing levy is a translation of a needless political vision into action. Yes, it goes without saying that political inertia cannot be ruled out in the formulation of the compulsory towing levy.

As noted by Kogan (1999), “governments will seek to legitimise their policies with reference to the notion of evidence-based decision making, but use research evidence only when it supports politically driven priorities.”

In practice, however, the Ghanaian media are expected to play their role in the policy formulation by highlighting the flaws and shortcomings in many aspects of the compulsory towing levy, and making sure to expose the politicians responsible for it, and by encouraging levels of public expectations which the Government has not been able to satisfy.

It would also be a worthwhile if the Ghanaian media have communicated a great deal of useful information and opinion to the general public and occasionally raised the levels of public consciousness.

To be quite honest, in a free society, the mainstream media are expected to be critics than supporters of those in power, and, in a pluralist liberal democracy it is right that this should be a norm.

In theory, though, the idea is quite expedient. However, the implementation process is boundlessly unconscionable. Suffice it to state that it is tentative and at worst, inoperable.

Let us however admit, in as much as we are seeking to put in place measures to cure the malaise, we cannot and must not burden the citizens with stiff and extraneous taxes.

It is worth stressing that in well-regulated jurisdictions, the local authorities are obliged to tow abandoned vehicles which are not deemed to be causing and obstruction or to be a danger to the public, and then bill the owners.

In practice, though, the local authorities have the right to remove abandoned vehicles, and then give the owners a seven days’ notice to pick their vehicles and pay for the cost of removal and storage.

More importantly, if an abandoned vehicle owner failed to comply with the notice, the local authorities could destroy or auction the vehicle.

In the event of a local authority opting to auction an abandoned vehicle, the said owner has up to a year to claim a portion of the amount, less the cost of towing and storage.

On the other hand, the abandoned vehicles which are dangerous or causing an obstruction may be removed by the police under section 99 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.

The owner may reclaim his or her vehicle from the garage concerned upon payment of the statutory fees.

And more so if a vehicle owner does not have a breakdown cover for their vehicle, they can request the Police to arrange recovery through one of the police vehicle scheme operators.

The fees for the recovery are not regulated within the Police Vehicle Recovery Scheme. The arrangement of the payment of the costs is a matter between the recovery operator and the vehicle owner.

Given all the hassle, a vehicle owner could do himself/herself a favour by either taking a breakdown cover through an insurance firm or from any of the authorised breakdown service companies.

We could do same here in Ghana. We could enact laws to empower insurance firms and other private towing companies to undertake towing services through membership subscriptions.

Whatever the case, the NPP government must bear in mind that they do not have an absolute right to remain in power. Indeed, President Akufo-Addo and his appointees have to work towards their re-election. That is by honouring the promises they made to discerning Ghanaians.

We should not lose sight of the fact that discerning Ghanaians voted the NDC government out of power in the 2016 general election as they were not happy about the way President Mahama and his appointees were managing the country.

To me, the best the NPP government could do to placate the millions of discerning Ghanaians who are conspicuously unhappy about the controversial mandatory towing levy is to suspend the inexpedient policy indefinitely.

Indeed, the good people of Ghana found in NPP, a redeemer, who they trusted to set them free from the NDC government’s apparent economic bondage.

To this end, President Nana Akufo-Addo and his NPP government must not and cannot disappoint the good people of Ghana, whose invaluable efforts brought about the needed change.

Let us therefore remind the NPP government that when promises are broken, the bonds of trust are breached, thus the NPP government must not and cannot disappoint discerning Ghanaians.