PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE VRS LAND ADMINISTRATION PROJECT
By Kweku Sersah-Johnson
In football parlance, it could pass for a two-leg match between the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament and the Land Administration Project of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, with the team from the Ministry drawn from its Departments, Agencies and other Implementing Institutions of the Land Administration Project (LAP).
The venue for the first leg was the Committee Room2 of the Parliament House with the State Broadcaster, Ghana Television and GBC Radio as the Referee assisted on the lines by the Ghana News Agency and a section of the Private Media. The return match was played at the offices of the Lands Commission in the yet to be completed ultra-modern (stadium) but yet to be completed Client Service and Access Unit (CSAU) on March 19, 2015, two days after the first encounter on March 17.
Specifically, the Players from the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources were selected from Heads and Accounting personnel from the Ministry itself, the Lands Commission, the Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands, the Town and Country Planning Department, the Judicial Service and the Accra Metropolitan Assembly. The Players from the Public Accounts Committee were made up of Members of Parliament from the various Political Parties dominated by the National Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party including the Clark, the ubiquitous Mrs. Abigail Ansong as Team Manager.
After the exchange of pendants between the two captains, Hon. Kwaku Agyemang Mainoo (Chairman of PAC) for the home team and Prof. Bruce Banoeng-Yakubo (Chief Director of the Ministry) for the visitors, the first leg kicked off with incessant attacks from the homesters, boosted by a strong home support provided by the Auditor-General’s Performance Audit Report into activities of the first phase of the Land Administration Project (LAP-1) from 2003 to 2011. The Auditor General supporters were led by Mr. Ayagiba Lawrence Ndaago, the Assistant Auditor General.
Led in attack by Hon. Adwoa Sarfo and Hon. Abena Osei Asare, (both of whom could pass as professional stars from the Black Queens) on the right front, with Hon. Abubakar Dey, the Ranking Member and Hon. Richard Quarshigah providing accurate passes, the PAC side continued the bombardment with allegations against the Ministry (LAP) of spending ‘huge sums of money’ on a Land Bill which was not yet ready and the failure to carry out Customary Boundary Demarcations as projected under the Project.
With a tailor-measured pass from Dr. Ben Quaye, the newly recruited National Project Coordinator for the Second Ghana Land Administration Project (LAP-2) and Mrs. Christine Bobobee, the Administrator of Stool Lands, Prof. Banoeng-Yakubo firmly repulsed the attack from the Parliamentarians, explaining that LAP-1 was indeed the very first kind of a Project on land of such magnitude in Africa and that most of the activities were carried out by ‘doing and learning’ processes at the same time.
He explained that it was not the case that LAP-1 could not produce the Land Bill but that the original concept of a one composite Land Bill was revised into three separate laws namely the Land Administration Bill, the Land Bill and the Land Use and Spatial Planning Bill and that the Land Administration Bill was passed in December 2008. This bill, he said, reduced the number of Land Sector Agencies from six to three as a means of harmonizing and reducing time and cost in land service delivery. Furthermore, he said, the Land Use and Spatial Planning Bill was submitted to Cabinet and that the comments from Cabinet were submitted to the Attorney-General’s Department before the end of LAP-1 in 2011.
On the issue of the Customary Boundary demarcation, the Chief Director explained that it was a very challenging task as it entailed a lot of work, including the engagement and education of communities and traditional authorities before such activities could be carried out. This is because, land, in addition to being intrinsically linked with human beings also evoked a lot of emotion and passion. He disclosed that one boundary demarcation involved so much activity including seeking the consent of all adjoining communities and traditional areas which were expensive and time consuming. The Professor said if indeed, football is described as the passion of the nation, then land could be same.
In spite of the dexterity of the Chief Director on the ball, the PAC players remained resolute, firing shots from all angles with the cheering support from senior staff members of the Auditor General’s Department. The shots ranged from the incomplete design and implementation of the computerized Land Information System (LIS) and the inability of the Ministry/LAP-1 to complete the study on Vested and De-vested Lands in the country despite the Ministry’s engagement of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) as Consultants to carry out the study and paying them thousands of dollars.
Foreign Player from KNUST
At this point, and upon a special request from the Technical Director of the Ministry team, permission was granted for the fielding of a Foreign Player from the KNUST, Prof. John Tiah Bugri, Head of the Department of Land Economy to replace the representative of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly in the LAP/MLNR squad to explain that the University was never engaged as Consultants but rather that the Department of Land Economy and the Centre for Land Studies came on board in a collaboration with the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, to conduct research into the subject and that no consultancy fees were paid them but rather Per Diems and DSA’s for staff of the two Departments for their research work.
A pile-driver from Mr. Kofi Dankwa Osei, Director of the Town and Country Planning Department, featuring as stopper for the visiting team, was timely to block the pressure from the PAC who intimidated that the new and revised Land Use and Planning Bill was submitted to the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Hon.Kwadjo Oppong Fosu just a day before the recent Government reshuffle in political offices and expressed the fear that this could be a setback since the incoming Minister may have to study the Bill all over before submitting it to Cabinet. He also disclosed that with support from LAP, a National Spatial Development Framework (NSDF) for the overall development of Ghana has been completed.
Then came a swift move from the left flank by Mrs. Yaa Boadi Agyemang, Director of the Land Registration Division of the Land Commission who indicated that so far a total of over 43000 backlog of Land registration cases at her outfit have been cleared by a special group of personnel being paid by LAP to handle that exercise. A solo effort from Mr. Joseph Ofosu Ampong of the Judicial Service justified his inclusion in the squad, indicating that the Service cleared over 2820 backlog of land cases out of a total of 2887 cases identified under LAP-1 in addition to the establishment of Land Courts in the country. This brought an end to the first leg with the scores at 2-0 in favor of PAC, the home team.
According to the coach of the Ministry/LAP team, Alhaji Ibrahim Baryeh, the Technical Director of the Ministry in charge of LAP, the choice of the uncompleted CSAU offices at the Land Commission as venue for the second leg was a ‘smart and strategic’ move on the advice of the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, the team’s Manager, Nii Osah Mills, since the CSAU encapsulated all the good things of the land reforms, from reducing the cost and turn-around-time for land service delivery and a reduction of the alleged corruption in the land sector to a one-stop-shop where all land registration and documentation will take place.
With a voiciferous home support, drawn from the confident faces of heads of LAP-2 Implementing Agencies, the Captain of the side, Prof. Baneong-Yakubo kicked the ball to start the game at 2 00 pm and immediately passed on the ball to the 10 shirted Dr. Ben Quaye, the LAP-2 National Coordinator who took his time to launch an attack into the PAC half of the field, hammering on the fact that Land reforms are long journeys the world over and cannot be accomplished in 8 or less years, which was the period for LAP-1 and that was why the 1999 National Land Policy fashioned out a 15 to 25 year programme of reform which gave birth to LAPs one and two.
With that early surge from the home team, one of the youthful stars from the PAC, Hon. Ekow Panyin Adumoah, in a rather unconventional move, collected the ball and plunged deep into the territory of the opponents with a probing shot at activities of the ‘goro boys’, that is the ‘Kpa-kpa-kpa men and women who act as intermediaries or contractors at the offices of the Lands Commission to help or defraud clients and whether these persons could be eliminated under the new CSAU dispensation. Mr. Ben Arthur, the head of the LAP Implementation Team of the Lands Commission dispossessed the PAC of the ball to explain that there would be no room at the CSAU for Kpa-kpa-kpa since every client who enters the CSAU will have to submit along his or her formal ID card and which would be entered into the electronic system. He said much, however, will depend on the clients not to fall prey to or encourage such middle-men and women.
The first half thus ended with the home team leading by a slim lone goal. The Captain of the PAC, Hon. Kwaku Mainoo Agyemang resumed the second half with a low grounder towards the goal of the homesters as to when the Ministry, LAP or the Lands Commission intend to commence the Client Service and Access Unit to bring the plethora of hustle, pain and agony associated with land transactions in the country to an end now that the second phase of the Land Administration Project was grinding to its end in March 2016. He took advantage of a defensive blunder by the home team to disclose that the PAC has decided to move out of Parliament to visit institutions to have in-depth knowledge of the operations of Institutions and Ministries to enable them appreciate better the Audit Reports on such organizations for more effective scrutiny and engagements.
Magic Month of June.
The nimble-footed 11 shirted Dr.Wilfred Anim Odame, Executive Secretary of the Lands Commission warmed himself into the game and delivered a curling shot, stating that the CSAU, barring any unforeseen circumstances will take off in June 2015 in 5 Regional Capitals and 2 District Capitals throughout the country. These are Tamale, Bolgatanga, Accra, Sekondi-Takoradi, Koforidua, Winneba and Savelugu. He said these will serve as pilots and would be replicated in all Regional capitals and other places based on the outcome of the initial successes.
The Chairman of the Land Commission, Alhaji Sadiq Bakari Nyari picked the ball from Dr.Anim Odame and gave a scissor kick to inform the Legislators of some very positive achievements of the Project including the establishment of Land Courts to deal specifically with land cases, the automation of the courts, the establishment of 58 Customary Land Secretariats throughout the country and the training of staff of the Land Sector Agencies.
He expressed the hope that the World Bank and the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development of Canada, who provide funding support to the Project will continue with the kind gesture for a third phase of LAP beyond 2016 during which period more concrete and practical successes could be attained. The second leg thus ended 2-1 in favour of the Ministry, its Departments, spearheaded by LAP-2. The PAC thus won the 2 encounters on a 3-2 aggregate. The next match is slated for some time in July 2015 when the CSAU would have taken off in June.