Private solutions for public problems: the case of Dzorwulu and Abelenkpe roads

BY: William Dowokpor

The Urban Roads Department and the newly created Ayawaso West Municipal Assembly seem to be looking on unconcerned while the roads and gutters in Dzorwulu and surrounding areas deteriorate from potholes into the proverbial manholes.

For the past five years the affected roads have not seen any maintenance. When Joy News covered the “Dzorwulu Bad Roads” on the “AM Show” last week it became obvious that the roads had been left to deteriorate beyond the regular filling of potholes and resurfacing. They have to be constructed all over again.

Dzorwulu and Abelenkpe roads

Costs to residents
Residents and business operators in the community have had to bear the brunt of the devastating effects of the bad roads as result of the failure of the Urban Roads Department and the Assembly to provide a solution. High costs of vehicle maintenance, increased accidents in the course of dodging potholes, chest infections from inhaling dust and loss of revenue to business operators constitute some of the obvious costs to people living and working in the affected areas.

To the tax payer, the state, Urban Roads and the Assembly, the high costs of rebuilding the roads could have been avoided had the routine maintenance schedule been kept. Worst still is the fact that no one seems to know when the authorities responsible would take action on these public problems in well-planned residential areas like Dzorwulu and Abelenkpe. Who is to blame?

Private solutions
Last year, a private developer provided a lasting solution to a 30-year old problem on the last quarter of the stretch between the Dzorwulu Special School and the Abelenkpe traffic lights. About 100 metres of that part of the road was always under water even in the dry season. It needed to be dug out deeper to reach hard soil level, filled and compacted before surfacing.

The Engineers and soil experts at the Urban Roads Department and Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) knew the problem but never solved it. It is interesting to recall how resident motorists detoured to avoid that stretch for 30 years but are happy to use it now, because it has been fixed. Thanks to DEVTRACO, the private developer.

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In the last decade or so, the phenomenon of finding private solutions to public problems has become pronounced in Ghana. When the state could not provide security to life and property, individuals had to settle for private security. People resorted to standby generators when the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) could sustain the supply of power. Water tankers came in to save the situation when the taps would not flow for many years. In their desperation to have the roads fixed, some residents in Dzorwulu and Abelenkpe have been contemplating private solutions to the public problems. Is that the way to go? What happens to the taxes and rates?

Dzorwulu and Abelenkpe roads

Public institutions
Ghana does not lack when it comes to setting up state or public institutions to ostensibly solve public problems. In fact successive governments have been in a hurry to set up “duplicate” institutions for political expediency when what is required is for the existing ones with the same mandate to be provided with the resources needed to deliver efficient public services to the people.

In the case of Dzorwulu and Abelenkpe roads, we have the Urban Roads Department and the Ayawaso West Sub-Metro responsible for fixing them. They prepare annual budgets, they benefit from taxes residents of Dzorwulu and Abelenpke pay, and yet they are not sure when the roads under their jurisdiction in the affected areas would be fixed.

People’s power
Ghana operates an electoral democracy, where we go to the polls to elect our leaders every four years. The leaders we elect are supposed to lead and or supervise the public institutions responsible for solving public problems. But we are often left on our own to find private solutions to the public problems.

In a democracy, one’s vote is supposed to be his or her power. That power enables us to choose who leads us at the national and local government levels. As a multi-party representative democracy, Ghanaians also have the power to determine who represents them in the legislature so that we are not left out in the laws that are made to govern us.

Residents of Dzorwulu and Abelenkpe have elected Assembly members to represent their interests. How are the representatives exercising the powers we gave them to have these public problems solved?