Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources trains prosecutors
Municipal and district assemblies in the five northern regions of Ghana have not gazetted their byelaws and are also without court facilities in the localities to prosecute environmental sanitation offenders.
As a result, environmental health prosecutors were using the national laws to prosecute offenders, which made it difficult because many of them had not been trained on the rudiment of the law to make cases relevant before the law courts for judges and magistrates to deliver Judgment on the offenders.
These were made known at a two-day capacity training workshop on environmental health prosecution by the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources aimed to improve knowledge and confidence of the prosecutors to enforce laws and ensure that standards were followed.
Mr Kweku Quansah, Environmental Health and Sanitation Director, in a keynote statement, said one of the challenges the Ministry had found wrong in the legal space was the lack of byelaws in most of the assemblies and the inadequate capacity building on the part of prosecutors.
"Byelaws in most district assemblies have not been gazetted and environmental health prosecutors have to rely on national laws, which are too general for them to secure successful judgment," he said.
He appealed to district assemblies to ensure that they promulgated their byelaws to make prosecution of environmental sanitation cases easier while they also collaborate effectively with the courts to understand thr role of the sector properly.
On the issue of political interference, Mr Quansah disagreed with that perception, saying, "The real challenge that the sector faces is the lack of capacity building of prosecutors to know the right thing to do, knowing the environmental laws and enforcing them appropriately is surely the way forward."
Mr Quansah encouraged administrators, politicians and the media to support the enforcement of environmental laws in the communities to ensure a clean and healthy environment.
Madam Charlotte Akwaah-Adjei Marfo, the Programme Manager, Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA), who gave an overview of the project, said it was sanitation and water project for Ghana with World Bank grant of US$150 million to support the government's efforts to increase access to improved sanitation and improved water supply in the Greater Accra and Kumasi with emphasis on low-income communities and to strengthen management of environmental sanitation.
She said the project had four components: provision of environmental sanitation and water supply services to priority low-income areas; improvement and expansion of the water distribution network; planning, improvement, and expansion of environmental sanitation services; institutional strengthening of municipal, metropolitan and national institutions.
Madam Adjei Marfo said the sanitation and water gaps were still huge to accomplish to meet the SDGs and the National Development Indicators.
She said the project was working to increase access to household toilets, provide safe water in the communities to benefit women and children and as well improve public health.
The Programme Manager said the sector had realised the lack of capacity at the districts and communities for prosecutors to go through the entire circle of the environmental health chain hence the training for them to enhance their knowledge.
Madam Naatu Freda, the Upper West Regional Director of Environmental and Sanitation Department, appealed to the Ministry to organise more training workshops to prosecutors and staff to enforce environmental sanitation laws in the communities.
She said efforts at ensuring environmental cleanliness and hygiene to meet the SDGs targets would be a mirage if the assemblies failed to gazette their byelaws for the sector to enforce them in the communities.
The Gomdah and Associates, a law firm, took the Prosecutors through "the jurisdiction of the courts of Ghana, code of ethics for the environmental health prosecutors, summary trial of cases in district courts, drafting of summons and charge sheets, witness and adduction of evidence and closing address and judgement."
The workshop for environmental officers drawn from the Upper West and East regions marked the take-off of the second phase of the project scheduled to end in 2024.
Some of the topics discussed at the workshop were the jurisdiction of the courts, code of ethics for the environmental health prosecutors, summary trial of cases, drafting of summons and charge sheets among others.
In 2015, the World Bank provided funds for the GAMA project to be piloted in Greater Accra (GAMA) and later extended to the Greater Kumasi area (GKMA) in the Ashanti regions.
This is the entire budget of the GAMA Project -Additional Financing, a fraction of which is meant for institutional and sector capacity building, which includes training of Environmental Health Prosecutors.
Other components of the project is for the provision of 42,000 low-income household toilets, 150 modern institutional toilets for schools and heathcare facilities, redevelopment of the Kumasi Asafo Sewerage System, Expansion of piped water connections to 10,000 low-income households all in Greater Accra and Greater Kumasi Metropolitan Areas. The entire 125 million can, therefore, never be used only for prosecutors training.
The most recent Capacity Building activity under the project took place last week in Tamale and Wa for Environmental Health Prosecutors from Northern, North East, Savannah, Upper East, and Upper West Regions.