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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Let your deeds do the talking, Mr. Transport Minister

Mike Hammah, Transport Minister
Mike Hammah, Transport Minister

Roughly a month ago, Mr. Mike Hammah, Ghana’s Transport Minister told Ghanaians that the kind of due diligence which was followed prior to the purchase of 400 Yaxing buses from China for the Metro Mass Transit (MMT) by the NNP government was flawed.

According to Mr. Hammah, the lack of careful scrutiny of the vehicles before they were purchased resulted in the purchase of comparatively low quality vehicles for the country.

What a simplistic way of looking at the situation. Aside the Yaxing buses being operated by the MMT, there are a good number of Italian buses, plus other brands in operation which have also been made redundant because of our pathetic lack of culture of maintenance.

Has the simple idea of stocking up a good inventory of replacement parts and performing periodic checks and regular maintenance on the vehicles ever occurred to the minister? Let your deeds do the talking, Mr. Minister. Had expensive buses been purchased, this same minister would have come out shouting on the top of his voice of misappropriation of public funds.

It is very sad, but this is the same tragedy that has befallen a good number of vehicles imported for the Police Service. Many of these vehicles are currently sitting in repair shops around the country. Could the same thing be said about these vehicles, Mr. Hammah?

If the minister had been a little bit vigilant, he would have seen quite a number of these Chinese vehicles on our streets owned and operated by private individuals. Is he telling us these private operators were not wise enough to have invested in inferior quality vehicles? What needs to be addressed is our attitude toward public assets and how we can maintain those assets for the benefit of all.

Somebody should tell the government to stop the blame game and get to serious business. They told Ghanaians they were able to, and capable of, facing the numerous challenges facing the nation, didn’t they? They gave us hope and promised the poor Ghanaian a better Ghana. The people will not accept anything less.

I strongly urge the minister to come out with better ideas on how to build on where his predecessor left and stop the blame game. His outfit should quickly arrange with the Chinese manufacturers to find ways to solve this problem. The country needs the services of these buses more than ever.

A direct consequence of urbanization and the use of many private and mini-buses are causing congestion and consequent high cost of travel per passenger. The minister should be made to understand that a successful expansion and operation of MMT would go a long way to lower the cost of travel for a number of people and therefore have a positive social and economic impact. We shouldn’t allow the MMT to suffer the same fate that befell STC.

The other day, the same minister claimed that about $90 million the Kufuor administration allocated to the railway sector cannot be traced when he was addressing railway workers in Takoradi.

The minister told the workers that he had studied files and accounts of the ministry for months but he was unable to trace the money. What a funny character. What is preventing the government from instituting a committee of inquiry to look into the matter? After all, we see many of such committees nowadays.

He went on to announce that the only way we can sustain and accelerate our economic development is to ensure that we revitalise our railway sector. Quite interestingly, the minister did not tell his audience how he and his government intend doing it. It was the usual “we shall do it” “plans are far advanced” talk.

The Takoradi port is expected to play a completely new role in future - as transit point for the oil industry. I’m afraid the port might eventually fail to play the role expected of it due to the grave challenges confronting it.

This is because the port is currently handicapped by the shallow waters which need deeper dredging to allow larger vessels to berth. This has been an issue that confronted the NPP government, which tried to tackle it with the assistance of the then minister of Fisheries, Mrs. Gladys Asmah. Cash restrains forced an abandonment of the project.

Currently, the port authorities have put in place what it terms as an “Immediate Master Plan” to reclaim a portion of the sea to serve as a new berthing place to contain the oil service vessels that have had to berth at the Naval Base.

Among the actions contained in the so-called master plan, is the creation of oil service terminal and bulk cargo terminals, which is estimated to cost about 650 million USD. What this means is that the Ports authorities would need not less than the amount stated above to meet these challenges.

These difficulties have now become an albatross around the neck of the Mills administration. Government has no option than to make the ports effective in its operations.

This should rather be of utmost concern to the minister and not pointing fingers and blaming the previous government for everything. The NDC government should have hit the ground running a long time ago. Too much time is being wasted on snatching cars and pointing fingers.

Credit: Desmond Frimpong
NPP-Norway branch.

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