Every time a political drama unfolds there are a few casualties and other unpleasant things pop up. Last week most Ghanaians made it clear they would not entertain the proposed new Chamber building for the Parliamentarians.

This caused Mr Speaker, Majority Leader and Minority Leader running for cover and His Excellence Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo himself making a U-turn in the middle of the Tema Motorway.

Initially, Kyei-Mensah attempted to defend the proposals until his compatriot in crime the NDC minority group disowned him. The intensity of the public outcry was too much to bear. Hence for the first time, Ghana’s “yentie obiaa MPs” (i.e. we won’t listen to anyone) capitulated by ordering Madam Kate Addo – Acting Director Public Affairs of Parliamentary Service to issue a statement to confirm the suspension of the project.

However, as stated earlier political sagas always pop up skeletons in the cupboard. First there was the question of:

  • When was the project conceived?
  • How did they select the winning Architect?  
  • How was the project procured?
  • Did Parliament breach the Public Procurement Act?
  • What was the role of built environment professional bodies, especially the Ghana Institute of Architects (GIA) and Architectural Registration Council (ARC)?

In particular, the ARC Registrar who currently has no Board and therefore should not be making decision with far-reaching consequences. The Constitution and Ghana’s Corporate Governance Code for the public service forbid her from making unilateral decisions.

The twist and turn of the story caused the GIA Council to issue a press statement on 8th July 2019 threatening to sue the government and questioning the procurement process follow by Parliament to secure the New Chamber building.

The press release suggests Ghanaian Architects now wish to exert themselves, sending a clear message to the political class they cannot be constantly ignored or call upon at the last minute to rubber stamp poorly conceived Government-backed projects. This suggests the new GIA Council led by Arch Richard Dadey mean business, are ready to challenge bad practice, root out incompetence and enforce best practice in real estate and infrastructure development in the country.

One may wonder why for many years Architects, Planners, Engineers, Surveyors and other built environment professionals have allowed haphazard developments in our towns and cities. Why did central government spend huge sums of money to train these professionals and yet not allow them to serve their country?

The GIA Council move is commendable but how far is it prepared to go to address the challenges facing the Ghanaian Architect. The problems facing Arch Richard Dadey and new Council are many and varied. If he is to succeed in transforming the image of GIA and Architecture in Ghana, he needs to be ruthless, firm, impartial and willing to discipline Architects who fall foul of the GIA bye-laws.

The new GIA Council in-tray is a list of things that requires immediate attention. First is to develop and pursue a REFORM Agenda. The GIA formed in 1962 is not the same GIA we need for the 21st Century digital economy of 2019. Since independence, the world has moved on and it’s time for GIA to also move on. Therefore, the Council must review its existing governance structures (i.e. Acts, bye-laws, committees, policies and the professional code of conduct).

Gone are the old rules that prevented Architects from advertising their services. This also means instituting new accreditation procedures, introduce new design and technology programmes, expand the membership eligibility criteria and make Architecture more attractive to young people. These are not necessarily new ideas. But is GIA going to produce a roadmap for their implementation?

Another challenge facing the GIA is finance. Until recently members of the Institute were paying ¢200cedis as annual fee. This has been raised to ¢500cedis. Recent reports suggest some members vehemently oppose these new increases. But for God sake how can Architects of GIA expect the Council to run an efficient operation on charitable bases?

The 200 cedis fee was a disgrace and did not commensurate the status of an Architect. If not all most Architects drives 4x4s, spend between 50 – 100 cedis a day on fuel and have two mobile phones. They cannot, therefore, complain about 500cedis annual fees. GIA needs financial investment to improve its image, that of Architects and cannot be done on the cheap. The Council may want to introduce a scaling fee structure with senior Architects paying more than the newly qualified Architects as well as a monthly payment plan to ease the pressure.

There is also the on-going problem with the Architectural Registration Council (ARC) left unaddressed by the previous GIA Council. The ARC Registrar is alleged to have tried to circumvent the work of the GIA (a major stakeholder). Among others, it is reported she conspired with the Ministry of Works & Housing to repeal and replace the Architects Act with a new ARC Bill without consulting the GIA Council.

This would have obliterated the existence of the GIA and diminish the role of Architects. A clear lack of understanding of the role of the two organisations in our society. The debate for merging the two organisations may be necessary but that should be done through a consultative exercise. She also seems to have hidden discussions with Parliament on the new Chamber building from the GIA Council. Such conduct undermines confidence in the Architectural profession. Maybe its time the GIA Council petition the Civil Service to replace her.

The new GIA Council also needs to distance themselves for the legacy of the previous Council led by Arch Hayford. Hayford and his team instituted an ill-structured consultancy service in the name of GIA which caused a rift between the AESC architectural staff and GIA. There was also the 2017 Housing Conference debacle which was hastily suspended without justification. Such occurrences can damage an organisation’s reputation and undermines the public trust in the Institute or profession.

GIA needs a new beginning and clearly defined sense of purpose or mission. Mission designed to confront and embrace the Digital Age opportunities. We call upon Arch Dadey and his Council to strengthen the GIA legal mandate to include wide-ranging enforcement powers, protect Ghanaian Architects from the activities of foreign Architects, ruthlessly deal with any rogue Architect and challenge Central Government policy on the built environment. Architect Dadey and GIA, Ghanaians are watching.

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