Have you ever wondered why only roofs of public buildings get ripped off? This was a question my Project Supervisor asked me once during my undergraduate days as a Building Technology student. So many years later as I watched a TV3 news in the evening sometime in March 2014, my mind was cast back to those undergraduate days as I struggled to scout for a topic for my final year project work.  On this particular news telecast, I watched in awe, how the LEKMA Basic Schools in Teshie, Accra and TMA 4 and 5 Basic Schools in Sakumono had gotten their roofs badly ripped off as a result of some rain that morning. The disappointing bit of the story was the fact that these roofs had actually been fixed within two months of the rain.

As I watched the news stories and pondered over that question posed by my lecturer many years back, it suddenly dawned on me the reason why only public school blocks fell victim to the adverse effects of rain winds. The problem was not so much because of the fact they were public buildings but that of attitude of public servants and other stakeholders.

My dear friend, have you ever heard of a private residence or private school building whose roof has ripped off within a year of construction? The answer is simple – attitude stemming from poor supervision, corruption in the award and implementation of these projects, and resultant use of inappropriate building materials among others are the reasons for which our public buildings continually experience roof rip-offs among several other constructional defects.

It is strange too, how some of these buildings inspite of their constructional defects at the time of completion are still commissioned by state actors. I then remember a few instances in the early 1990s when the then Chairman of the PNDC, Flt. Lt. J.J. Rawlings refused to commission a road project somewhere in the Western forest areas. His complaint after inspection was that he felt that a particular curvature was too sharp and would become an accident spot. He insisted that the road be re-aligned to make it user-friendly and this was done. 

I also remember a hospital project that had been earmarked for commissioning sometime in the late 1990s when Mr Kojo Yankah was the Ashanti Regional Minister. Trust the Ghanaian for good event management, the programme had well packaged. The Press was heavily present; officials of the Ministry of Health were brimming with smiles as District Assembly officials moved about with excitement all amidst pomp and pageantry. Soon, the Minister arrived and as it is always done, the pre-handing over inspection had to be done.

As I can recall, the Minister was so disappointed for three reasons: the Contractor had not completed the adjoining staff accommodation, the facility to be commissioned had only received the primer paint awaiting the final coat of paint. As he moved towards the back of the building, he was smart enough to realise that the external works had not been completed as well. He kept his cool and brought out the bombshell in his speech adding that, on the basis of what he had seen, it would not be appropriate to commission the project.

Question is, were there Consultants attached to those projects to which the answer would obviously be that there were. Stretching the argument would even be the question as to the process through which these projects went through from project conceptualization through design and packaging to implementation. What would make serious projects such as these to be handled in such a manner obviously defies logic.  

Just recently in December 2018, a friend who is a school head was telling me of how the government had allocated the construction of a new dormitory block for his school. Unfortunately, his excitement for the new facility soon turned to mixed feelings when the project team arrived from the big city. The drawings had been completed in Accra and the Contractor had moved to ‘site’ requesting for a place to site the project. Somehow the school’s head was apprehensive due to the size of land that the building was going to swallow. Here was an institution whose land size was almost gone and so the need to conserve the little was critical. Yes, they needed the dormitory block, but couldn’t the officials in Accra undertake a survey of the possible sites to enable them appropriately design to maximise land use?  

When did we become so communist to start the construction of standard units in this country? Suddenly classroom blocks meant for the SHS programme, CHPPS Health compounds, community basic school libraries are all built with standard designs from the national capital. Where did our sense of ingenuity go, Ghanaians? Whilst at this, I am told that the Community Day Senior High Schools began under the previous Mahama government were all constructed of standardized designs. As commendable as the initiative was, I drove to Adenta sometime last week using the Agbogba stretch and saw one of the schools that had been built on a most congested piece of land. Can somebody be told that facilities are always designed bearing in mind critical factors including topography, cultural issues, etc in mind?  

In the late 1990s, SSNIT began its workers housing scheme in the Upper East Region. After building just a few, events soon proved to them that there was the need to consider the harsh conditions of the weather among other cultural factors in that part of the country in the house designs. 

We appear to live in a country replete with extremely qualified professionals in terms of both academic/professional qualifications and exposure and yet the levels of quality in their delivery by way of delivery are so low that sometimes, you wonder!

While at this, I remember how for most part of March 2014 thereabouts, Ghanaians were inundated with notices that the popular Adomi Bridge was going to be closed for a 24-month period to make way for major replacement work. Two new ferries had been procured to run shuttle services in place of the about-to-be lost bridge. Fantastic idea, isn’t it? The new ferries began operation with pomp and pageantry as always only to begin breaking down after a week’s operation. How could these ferries travel 24-months when after only a few weeks, they had begun to experience frequent breaking-downs? 

In the midst of all of this, we again heard of news that a gaping hole had emerged on one of the concrete bridges on the Accra-bound end of the Tema motorway. Inspite of loads of orchestrated complaints led by high-profile radio personalities, it took the Department of Urban Roads more than two weeks to put in place a road traffic management plan to deal with the traffic. Road traffic study and management is one of the very basic courses studied by every Civil Engineering student in our tertiary institutions and yet, it took two weeks of noise including a presidential visit to get it resolved, why?

My dear friend, the litany in citing our comedy of errors is not to create despondency but to bring out the following: Our country abounds in intelligent professionals who are well trained and exposed with the needed experience to work towards the development of our country. Secondly, inspite of the often-heard call that the Ghanaian leader is unpatriotic and largely corrupt, there still remain leaders who are determined committed to do what is just and right wherever they find themselves for the development of the country. What we require is the creation of that enabling environment to enable the best to spring forth from the citizenry. Ghana is indeed a blessed country living in experience poverty as a result of systemic failure.

I rest my case for now, but I shall return!

Certainly, we all need to work in pushing the frontiers of leadership in a manner as will get the needed change to be experienced much more quickly. However, if only you and I will decide to begin, dear friend, it would amaze you how quickly we can have country fixed for good. Are you ready?