Consumer Rights advocate Kofi Capito has warned that a tragedy far more devastating than the Melcom disaster will befall the country if measures are not put in place to ensure strict compliance with building codes.
He said there were standards regarding how buildings should be constructed and what materials are to be used, stressing that while many developers flagrantly ignored these standards, authorities mandated to enforce them were also failing to do their jobs.
Participating in a discussion on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show Monday about the Melcom shop disaster which claimed 14 lives, Mr. Capito asserted, “Something bigger than this Melcom thing is going to happen in Ghana.”
The five-storey Melcom Shopping Mall at Achimota collapsed Wednesday, 7 November 2012, killing 14 people.
Amidst suggestions that the disaster was caused by negligence regarding the building's structural integrity, city authorities have started taking steps to assess whether or not public buildings are safe.
Mr. Kofi Capito said the Accra Metropolitan Assembly's failure to ensure that the contractors building the now-collapsed Melcom observed safety standards was symptomatic of the laxity that characterizes Ghana's regulatory institutions. “Every institution in Ghana does not work,” he claimed. He accused the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) of offering “mediocre excuses” to explain its shortcomings.
But the Director of Testing Division at the GSA, Kwabena Acheampong, explained that organization is only mandated to set the standards for which products are to be used in every endeavor, including building and construction. He however maintained they were not a regulatory body and can therefore not enforce the standards they set.
“…We set standards and then there are institutions that have to use the standards to enforce them. We set standards, we don’t enforce because we are not a regulatory [body]…”
“…We set standards for the materials that they use in the construction industry and the civil engineers and the structural engineers, they will determine the type of iron rods you have to use…” he added.
Kwabena Acheampong said that the Works and Housing Ministry is the office mandated to ensure compliance with these standards, adding that consultants and civil engineers must also hold contractors to the standards.
Capito, unimpressed by Mr Kwabena’s explanations, insisted that state institutions must do their work and stop shifting blame.
Identifying political appointments to key positions as the reason for poor performances by regulatory institutions, Mr. Capito said it was time to stop employing people on the basis of their party affiliation - a phenomenon he said was not limited to one political party.
“We can’t have somebody who doesn’t have any idea of the institution that he is going to head running that institution because his party is in power,” he insisted.
Mr Capito said the public must hold public institutions accountable when there are failures such as the one that led to the Melcom shop disaster.