The field and profession of Architecture seems to be one area that Ghanaians and maybe other Africans of the modern era seem to have taken for granted. Unlike the ancient Egyptians and rulers of the ancient African Kingdoms, the design and construction of modern structures and cities, and the professional training needed seem to have been totally underrated and unappreciated.
Perhaps the air of elitism formerly associated with some professions, including Law, Engineering and Architecture, has come to haunt all of us in these professions as Politicians seem to scorn us and could care little for quality, integrity or ethics.
The Architectural profession combined with Engineering, contributes to the design and building of cities, creating sustainable communities and iconic monuments. But for the new Parliament Chamber, Architects were being forgotten in Ghana. The recent advocacy of their professional body has raised concerns about how public sector architectural projects are procured and awarded. The tendering process was not considered open and transparent enough.
Earlier it was rumoured all “juicy” public buildings contracts in recent times had been awarded to Sir David Adjaye. Sir David is an Architect with an impeccable track record with buildings from Washington to Moscow, London and Oslo. With such credentials, you would have thought Ghanaians would happily allow him to design all buildings. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Another well-known local Architect is reported to have petitioned the President complaining that even Okyehene’s palace has been given to Sir David to design. The question is:- how did this happen? Is the Okyehene’s palace a public sector development project? Or is the Okyehene Royal household designated as a state-own enterprise?
Prior to this, it was suggested, like Britannia, the sun never set on any Architectural Project in Ghana without Arch Sam’s touch. We now know from the Parliamentary Service he was the ONLY local Architect invited to submit a tender. Why is he now complaining? When he was invited did he ask whether the tender was opened to all Ghanaian Architects? Did he realise a call for proposal was never advertised to invite other Architectural firms in Ghana?
Now let us examine the real issues. Why has the procurement of architectural projects become a problem? Since the PNDC era, public sector Architectural Development Projects were mostly awarded to a selected few of Architects in Ghana. Though the Public Procurement Act (PPA) provided a framework for awarding such contracts, the process was shrouded in secrecy and was hardly open or transparent. However, those who benefitted from the malpractice never found anything wrong with it. They did not complain, nor did they realise by actively participating in this malpractice they were destroying architectural practices and promotion of Architecture in Ghana.
Though the concerns raised by the Ghana Institute of Architects (GIA) is legitimate and rightly so what is not acceptable is others seizing the moment to air their personal grievances. The PPA makes provision for complaining about unfair treatment. Therefore, we should not allow these grievances to overshadow the on-going legitimate debate aimed at correcting the system. The barrage of criticism levelled against Sir David is a distraction. The real problem is that for many years the procurement procedures were undermined and disregarded.
The essence of the Public Procurement Act was to provide a fair and equitable way for awarding contracts and to celebrate success. How come the procurement process designed to celebrate the very best in our society failed to achieve that? This is because some Senior Architects who were well-connected to the ruling government or had friends who were CEOs, MDs and DGs of state-own enterprises used their links to circumvent the system. Their conduct destroyed the enabling environment that could have fostered the development of Ghanaian Architecture. Instead of thinking about the common interest of the architectural profession, they were more concerned about their personal interest.
Bad procurement practices and total disregard for the rules existed long before Sir David Adjaye came on the scene. The Architects who allowed such infractions to go on with impunity are the ones we should blame. They did not win their projects on merit. As we debate the issues a few Architects have been secretly awarded Ghana Mission’s contracts. Why are those contracts not being mentioned? Was the procurement process followed or they used their privileged positions to secure the projects? Why did our political leaders connive with some Architects to rob others of their opportunity to shine? Openness and Transparency, Probity and Accountability, Fairness and Equity, core values of a democratic society were thrown out of the window. All these are what has contributed to crippling the Architectural profession in Ghana
Mr Special Prosecutor are you going to investigate the Procurement and Awards of public sector Architectural Projects?
Today many young Ghanaian Architects are regretting choosing the Architectural Profession. After many years of sleepless nights and long hours of hard work, they don’t seem to be gaining anything from the profession. These young architects are hardly given the opportunity to demonstrate their creativity. Some work for these senior Architects who pay them next to nothing. Whilst in other countries someone in their twenties could design and build a national monument, in Ghana, you must be over 50yrs before you are even shortlisted to partake in any contract. They are totally shuttered and feel let down by their Government, Senior Architects and the Professional Body.
We appeal to the GIA Council not to remain silent or allow themselves to be corrupted by “juicy” projects. Don’t also allow a few people to use the Institute to enrich themselves. Building a stronger institution is more important than any job you will be given privately to keep you quiet. Build a strong organisation by tightening your governance structures, policies, procedures and by-laws. An invitation to the Office of the Special Prosecutor could spell doom for the Institute.
Members of GIA ask questions and seek to make your leaders more accountable. Call for better governance and accountability. Demand the establishment of sub-committees such as Audit & Finance, Ethics & Discipline and Operations & Performance to scrutinise and prevent financial abuse by a few. Though the Council is on a mission to improve the image of the Institute, they cannot do it without your support. The child who doesn’t allow her mother to sleep also doesn’t sleep.
The writer, Kwadwo Owusu-Darko, is the Co-Founder of Centre for Real Estate & Social Housing, a research and advocacy think tank. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Comments @Blog: https://owudarko.wixsite.com/website
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