The Architects Registration Council (ARC) is the government of Ghana regulatory body for the architectural profession. In some countries, a Regulator is a scary beast because they have the power to shut down an enterprise or prosecute its Directors for wrong doing. However, the effectiveness of a Regulator depends on its statutory mandate, leadership and governance structures. The formidable Regulator is independent, led by an Effective Board, safeguard the public interest and exercise its mandate without fear or favour.

The Regulator’s Board members avoid conflict of interest, govern with integrity and is accountable. Can we say the Architects Registration Council is an effective Regulator?

To strengthen the oversight responsibilities of governing Boards of state institutions, the Ghana Public Services produced the Corporate Governance Manual for Governing Boards/Councils. The manual states “Weak governance practice in the Public Service organizations may lead to inefficiencies, low productivity, corruption and consequently retard economic growth and development of Ghana.” Therefore, the strength of ARC depends on the strength of its governance structures and practices.  Among others, the Governance Manual also raises major issues of concern impacting the Public Services which includes:

  • Weak interface between political office holders and public servants in the day-to-day administration of the public service.
  • Lack of adherence to policy operating guidelines.
  • Appointments of Board/Council members not based on qualification, competence, experience and commitment.
  • Unhealthy Board/Council – Management relationships.

Like others, the ARC has experienced its fair share of the challenges outlined above. The role, function and purpose of the ARC has always raised questions in our minds.

The question often asked is – “Is the Architects Registration Council necessary?” This is because at the beginning the ARC was not a government agency. The Ghana Institute of Architects (GIA) performed all the duties of the ARC including monitoring of architectural education, registration and accounting. This is a legitimate debate but not for this occasion.

However, we do have pressing concerns impacting the ARC which relates to its Governance, Leadership and Management. Sincerely, the ARC in its present state is not serving the best interest of Architects or the architectural profession. But as usual in Ghana instead of taking decisive action, we drag our feet with our usual mantra “let us pray about it”. Organisations policies offer a framework for decision making which include guidelines for disciplinary actions. Though these policies encourage us to act in good faith, yet we allow our religiosity to mar our judgement. A situation literally crippling every facet of our society. Why can’t we uphold the rules and values of organisation instead of framing everything in religious jargons?

As we know the GIA recently launched a media campaign to pressure the Government to inaugurate the Architects Registration Council Board.

This was a problem threatening the Architectural Profession and ARC’s role as an effective Regulator. In addition, the GIA also raised concerns about the current ARC registrar’s appointment which was done, not in accordance with the Architects Act 1969, NLCD 357 as per Section 3(1). However, the GIA was persuaded by the Ministry of Works & Housing to support the inauguration of the ARC Board and address the concerns later. The inauguration held on 16 August 2019 was well-received by all the stakeholders especially the Architects.

Prior to these, on August 2, 2019, the GIA members unanimously voted to elect and nominate a new ARC Registrar. Subsequently, on September  3, 2019, the GIA followed the provisions of the Architect Act to nominate the substantive ARC Registrar. This was to pave the way for a fresh start and commence a process to rebuild the image of ARC.

Unfortunately, like a Japanese sumo wrestling match, it is alleged negotiations between the ARC Board and Registrar have stalled even though she was never nominated by the GIA. Why is the ARC Board tolerating such level of insubordination? If the Board members feel conflicted in dealing with this matter, then they should resign immediately.

Although it is a measure of last resort, terminating an employee’s employment contract for poor performance is necessary to promote best practice.

The future of the Architectural Profession is at stake and therefore we should not allow the interest of one person to overshadow our common interest.

Our failure to correct today’s mistakes and sanction misconduct set a bad precedent for the future. Have we forgotten the attempts made to repeal the Architects Act without consultation with GIA or Board authorisation? Why haven’t the allegations made about foreign Architects operating in the country without GIA accreditation and misuse of subscriptions not being investigated? We should just accept we stood unconcerned when the system was failing and take responsibility to clean up the mess.

Also, others are alleging a senior official at the Ministry of Works and Housing is encouraging the Registrar to resist any attempt to remove her.

Architects, it’s time to boycott ARC functions and raise your voices. As they say, if you don’t comment on your hair cut you get a bad one. Arguing among ourselves because we are appalled by what is happening, doesn’t resolve the problem.

The Architects Act 1969, NLCD 357 clearly states only the GIA has the prerogative to nominate the ARC Registrar. The Office of the President has issued a letter to confirm this. Therefore, it’s time to invite the National Security to enforce the Architects Act as per Section 3(1).

Good governance is about adherence to laid down policies, rules, regulations, structures and practices to achieve the expected results. When the rules are not adhered to, good governance ceases to exist.

We must also remember nobody is indispensable and that our uttermost priority is the long-term viability of our organisation. The operational challenges facing the ARC is a clear manifestation that the principles and practices of good corporate governance have not been sufficiently appreciated and adhered to by the organisation.

The promotion of good corporate governance is a shared responsibility of all stakeholders but for Architects the stakes are too high and hence we should not allow one person to impede our efforts.

 

Writer: Kwadwo Owusu-Darko is the Co-Founder, Centre for Real Estate & Social Housing, a research and advocacy think tank.