Dear Minister, remove the duplicitous offices to save resources

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There seems to be some duplication in the discharge of duties in the public sector. Therefore, scrapping some of these quangos may go a long way in saving the public purse some funds.

In the energy sector, the Ministry of Energy sits at the top, then under it, several agencies, departments, authorities and commissions, springs up, whose functions seem to overlap.  For example, one can find the VRA, VRA Trust Fund, ECG, GRIDCo, NEDCo, VALCO, Bui Power Authority, Energy Commission, Petroleum Commission, Ghana Cylinder Manufacturing Company, National Petroleum Authority, GNPC, Tema Oil Refinery, GOIL, Ghana Gas Co. and the almighty BOST!

One does not need to be a so-called energy expert to be able to harmonise the above under four (4) agencies. Thus, the VRA Trust Fund can be christened Energy Sector Trust Fund, so that with the necessary legislation, all the quangos under the Ministry of Energy are served by one trust fund.

Secondly, the agencies that are into exploration and production/manufacturing can also be brought under one umbrella.

The agencies that are into wholesale, retailing or distribution/storage, may also come under one controlling agency. The regulatory agencies functions will then be ceded to a Health & Safety Executive (HSE), which will be looked at shortly.

TOR may be allowed to stand alone at the moment. At some point, Ghana may have more than one oil refinery, and the name may have to change to reflect the trend.

This multiplicity of agencies can be seen across almost all the ministries. It is not surprising that, the Minister of State in charge of tertiary education (Prof. Kwesi Yankah), has hinted of the National Accreditation Board (NAB) and the National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE), being merged into one. This is a step in the right direction.

If this harmonisation is applied across all the ministries, I will leave the savings that would be made to the Hon. Minister of Finance to quantify.

Agencies like the Food and Drugs Authority, Ghana Standards Authority, Environmental Protection Agency, etc., can all be scrapped and replaced with a simple but more robust Health & Safety Executive (HSE), modelled on the UK HSE. The HSE in the UK, is given wide ranging powers, including the power to prosecute and carry out inspections of almost everything in the UK without giving any prior notice before ‘storming’ an organisation, thus, both public and private organisations. It is among the most feared state agencies in the UK. It has powers to shut down any public or private organisation for breach of health and safety regulations.

Ghana desperately requires an effective and efficient HSE to curb the maiming and deaths at workplaces, erroneously termed accidents. It is clear that, basic health and safety procedures are most often given lip service by managers. I haven’t come across a single organisation in Ghana, where emphasises is placed on health and safety. This cannot be allowed to continue. We have vehicles driving around without headlights, invisible registration plates, no sidelights, no rear view mirrors, bald tyres, excessive smoke, etc, and this is deemed ok.

One goes to companies/organisations/institutions, and find electrical cables dangling on human heads as they go about their official duties; open gutters that people can fall into; no designated fire assembly points; no toilet facilities provided for both staff and visitors, and even in some instances where toilet facilities are claimed to have been provided, what one will see inside those ‘death traps’, is worse than what floats on the Korle Lagoon!

Go to some academic institutions, and one will find classrooms that seats about 70 students, having only one entry/exit door, and to compound the health and safety issue in those instances, the doors to such classrooms are usually shut during teaching or when such classrooms are being used for examinations. It is no surprising that, some students do collapse in classes, due to the excessive heat in such enclosed environments. What if there is an emergency like a fire outbreak, how quickly can those inside such ‘bakery ovens’ termed classrooms get out? It is high time legislation is put in place to hold anyone under whose care other people come under, responsible for any health and safety mishap that may arise.

In this regard, landlords, teachers, their immediate supervisors and heads of institutions can be prosecuted for not putting in place effective and efficient health and safety measures at their various properties/schools. Food vendors, hoteliers, police cells, prisons, petrol stations, almost every nuke and cranny of mother Ghana, can then be inspected at any time by the HSE unannounced. With this, I believe, we will stop seeing the soiled used newspapers and other unspeakable things that are used by some people in the name of wiping their backsides after nature’s call in toilets across the various work places in this country.

Setting up a Health and Safety Executive (HSE), is long overdue!

Source: Alhassan Salifu Bawah

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