DEMOCRACY IN GHANA: PUBLIC SERVICE RESPONSE TO CITIZENRY

Posted on May 20, 2009

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Democracy means more than holding free and fair elections every four years.

Too bad there is no litmus test for people living here to evaluate Ghanaian democracy.

Good governance and civil society are two  terms bandied about when referring to democratic rule. The consequence of good governance is a civil society characterized by the supremacy of the rule of law;  and I’ll go one better, the rule of regulation. Here enters the importance of having a responsive civil service to ensure laws and regulations are enforced.

Four Villages Inn has issues. It makes demands on local officials. But all too often we are listened too, commiserated with, and then ignored. But we don’t give up! That relentless streak prevails. We just climb the proverbial ladder of authority and then just maybe a breakthrough. Like what happened a few days ago….It’s somewhat a long story; but here goes…

Since January, 2009, a beer bar has been operating in no-man’s land in front of a one star hotel across the road. We first complained to the licensing authority, The Ghana Tourist Board.  Countless phone calls, text messages, letters, e-mails finally brought the Regional Director to “the scene of the crime”. But he never came to see the victims at Four Villages, neither to monitor the loudness of the music nor to give us  feedback on action to respond to our complaint.

Over a month later,  I publically confronted the Regional Director of the G.T.B.  in front of the membership of the Ghana Hotels Association at a regular monthly meeting. His response  to my detailed description of the events, “I went there and I didn’t think the music was too loud!”

Now that I think about it, why didn’t I climb that ladder of authority at the Ghana Tourist Board….friendships and jobs perhaps  on the line…I guess.

But not so at the Environmental Protection Agency. First there were letters and a visit to their office. Then I happened to see their truck in front of the drinking bar-but never did they come here to Four Villages to monitor the situation. Mostly we were just given excuses that the noise took place after E.P.A. office hours and there was no budget. So, thie for more action. A letter to the national newspaper published on 7th March, 2008 and  printed below:

THE NOISE IS KILLING US TOO

Our sympathies go out to Gertrude Adutwum of the University of Education, Kumasi Campus, whose  March 2 letter to the editor entitled “Must worshiping God be so noisy” described sleepless nights caused by nearby churches.

We sympathize not only because of her nightly ordeal, but also because, we believe, there is little hope that action will be taken against the churches..

We face  similar  noisy  nights. Loud music from a drinking bar across the road located in a structure  in no-man’s land in front of a one-star hotel in Atasomanso disturbs the residents of this first class residential zone.  The proprietor has placed tables and chairs outside in no-man’s land between the bar and the gutter despite heavy vehicular traffic speeding down the hill from Daban.. Sometimes the music is turned down. We’ve discovered that happens when the one star hotel has guests of its own.

Since January 1st, we have protested vociferously this situation at the  K.M.A., the Ghana Tourist Board here in Ashanti, and the E.P.A. here in Ashanti. When we learned that there was no budget for E.P.A. officers to study and respond to situations after E.P.A. closing hours, we e-mailed the national office of the E.P.A. to recommend management establishes procedures and budgets to allow officials to work at night to take action against offenders.  We await the E.P.A. response.

Furthermore, when we were given so many reasons why the E.P.A. would not take action at the drinking bar, we made a separate complaint to the E.P.A. about a more blatant zoning violation, a noisy apeteshie bar behind us in no-man’s land on the next plot. No action has been taken on the apeteshie bar either.

Our advice to Mme Adutwum, make a lot of noise yourself….to the authorities, because if you don’t make noise, nobody will listen. You’ll get branded as a troublemaker, but you can live with that, not the sleepless nights.

Charity and Chris Scott

Kumasi

No response came from E.P.A. Kumasi, nor Accra.

Months pass and the music persists. Perseverance though prevails and again I approach the local E.P.A. to be told that the monitoring machines that measure decibels need to be re calibrated!

So, I sent another e-mail to the Executive Director of the E.P.A. in Accra on May 12,  which is  printed below:

PLEASE PRINT THIS LETTER AND THE ATTACHMENT AND DELIVER TO DIRECTOR ALLOTEY

Dear Sir:

On March 7th, I had a letter published in the Daily Graphic under the headline “THE NOISE IS KILLING US TOO!”. The main point was to bring attention to the fact that E.P.A. personnel needed a budget in order to monitor complaints after office hours.Now I see that I missed the point entirely. The letter should have focused on the fact that the E.P.A. needs its noise monitoring devices re calibrated so officers can do their jobs! It is no wonder officers previously gave me countless spurious reasons why they could take no action.

On Wednesday May 6th, I met with the E.P.A. Director here in Kumasi. I went to re lodge my complaint regarding noise pollution around Four Villages Inn. The Director asked, “Which complaint?” because we had lodged two, one on an apeteshie bar in no-man’s land behind us and a second one on a drinking bar in front of us. I indicated the latter complaint since the drinking bar had resumed its noise-making despite a meeting between ourselves and the drinking bar organized by Mr. Donkor, Director of the K.M.A. Environmental Health Department. At that meeting, the drinking bar owner was ordered to lower the volume and turn the speakers inwards towards her bar. Both these orders are regularly contravened.

When public service departments fail to carry out their mandate, situations only worsen as narrated in the letter attached to Mr. Donkor, Director of Environmental Health at the K.M.A. The landlord of Lahana Avon accosted me physically when I went to the drinking bar to quietly ask that they lower the music. I am still trying to get another meeting with all parties at the K.M.A.

I asked your E.P.A.  Director if she could hold a meeting. She informed me that meetings don’t work. She informed me that there were lots of meetings held with the people involved with the noise complaint at Miklin Hotel in another first class residential zone. She told me that nothing had changed there and that she would consult the E.P.A. lawyer to see what can be done…..I am still awaiting the result of her consultation.

This brings me to my final point-the lack of communication from the E.P.A. to the complainant. When I went to the E.PA.on May 6, the Director got upset with me because I had “written to the national press” and that they had been acting on the complaint about the drinking bar. I told her nobody had communicated what action had been taken and not one officer had visited Four Villages Inn! With regard to the apeteshie bar in non-man’s-land, the Director here  said that the owner was being served with something that very day! I still have received no communication what action was taken.

And finally, there has been no communication from your office, not even an acknowledgment that my two e-mails Feb. 28 and March 4th were received!

I write with the fervent hope that processes and procedures improve at the E.P.A. so that issues that compromise the quality of life of the citizenry of Ghana are dealt with professionally.

I await your most esteemed  response.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Scott

c.c. E.P.A. Director, Kumasi

Well, if you’ve got this far, here’s your reward…on May 18th, an E.P.A>.truck drove in delivering the following letter:

RE: Noise Pollution

“We write to acknowledge receipt of the two (2) complaints lodged at our office on the above mentioned subject.

We wish to officially inform you that we have since issued noise abatement notices to Jina’s Kitchen and The Point, and the Agency would be monitoring them for compliance.

Thank you,

Ag. Regional Director

c.c. The Executive Director, E.P.A. Accra

YAHOO! Signs of democracy!

More to follow….

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Posted in: GOVERNANCE