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Sale of Saglemi houses: Committee sits on way forward but Minority against private developers

BY: Emelia Ennin Abbey

The Ministry of Works and Housing has constituted a technical working committee to guide it in exploring the possibility of selling the Saglemi Affordable Housing Project.

The technical working group, chaired by the Deputy Minister of Works and Housing, Abdulai Abanga, is made up of experts from the built environment, including professional bodies such as the Institute of Planners, the Ghana Institute of Engineers and the Ghana Institute of Surveyors, the Public Procurement Authority, the Ministry of Finance and the Lands Commission.

Last Monday, the first meeting between the ministry and the group was held, during which the committee’s terms of reference were spelt out to the members.

Procurement, other issues

In an interview with the Daily Graphic ahead of the meeting last Monday, the Minister of Works and Housing, Francis Asenso-Boakye, said the group was, among other things, expected to advise the government on procurement processes and other issues relating to the sale of state assets to ensure transparency, accountability and value for money.

He said the committee would be expected to complete its work and present a report to the ministry in a month.


"This is a very controversial project and as such it is important that every process about its sale must be open and as transparent as possible," he said.

So far, he said, no developer had been selected, adding: “We have not engaged anybody; we are now going through the various processes. The government is exploring the possibility of selling the project at the current value, so that the proceeds could be used for the development of other viable affordable housing projects."

The decision to explore the possibility of selling the Saglemi Affordable Housing Project, Mr Asenso-Boakye explained, was taken after the government had painstakingly reviewed and assessed the project.

In 2012, the government secured a $200-million loan for the construction of 5,000 housing units at Saglemi, a community near Tema in the Greater Accra Region.

However, the minister said, at the end of the stipulated completion date for the project, it was found that only 1,506 housing units were at various stages of completion, “and not habitable".

He indicated that an assessment later revealed that the ministry would need $13 million to connect the uncompleted housing units to potable water and $8 million to connect them to electricity, while $46 million was needed for off-site infrastructure and an additional $68 million for on-site infrastructure.

"Given the amount spent and the money needed to complete the project, there is no doubt that Saglemi is a failed project. We have asked the Ghana Institute of Surveyors to give us the current valuation of the project, so that we know how much it is worth," he said.

Other existing projects

On the state of existing affordable housing projects in areas such as Borteyman, Kpone, Asokore Mampong, Tamale, Koforidua and Wa, Mr Asenso-Boakye said they had been handed over to some state agencies to manage.

The affordable housing projects at Borteyman and Asokore Mampong, he said, were given to the Social Security and National Insurance Trust for completion and the houses were currently on sale.

The State Housing Company, he said, took over the affordable housing projects in Koforidua, Wa and Tamale and it "has been working on them".

Furthermore, he said, the affordable housing project at Kpone was given to the Tema Development Company (TDC), which had completed a substantial part of the project and commenced sales.

Investing in housing

Housing, Mr Asenso-Boakye said, was very important and, therefore, the idea of the state investing in it was a good one.

Nevertheless, he posited that before embarking on a housing project, a number of factors had to be considered.

He was of the view that feasibility studies had to be undertaken before the take-off of any affordable housing project "to know if people will patronise it and the kind of infrastructure that will be needed”.

“A lot of things have to go into it. If this is not done, you will certainly find it difficult to achieve the objective," he added.

Future projects

To ensure the success of future affordable housing projects, he said, the ministry was pushing for the establishment of a state agency dedicated to the planning and construction of public affordable housing.

"We have started a process for the establishment of a National Housing Authority, to which the government has given policy approval, and we are working with the Attorney-General to develop a bill for the consideration of the Cabinet and subsequently for parliamentary approval," he said.

He explained that the authority would be responsible for undertaking feasibility studies, planning and managing affordable housing projects and that would solve the problem of starting affordable housing projects without the proper feasibility studies.

The minister said he was optimistic that the establishment of the authority would ensure that the various affordable housing programmes went through the necessary feasibility studies to establish their viability before the government made any financial commitment.

New affordable housing

The minister said the government had designed a new affordable housing programme, with the strategy of supporting the private sector with land and other incentives to reduce the construction cost, which would in turn reduce the average cost per unit.

He said the government would commit $55 million to produce 12,000 units in the Greater Accra and the Ashanti regions.

Minority kicks against plan

Meanwhile, the Minority in Parliament has kicked against any plan by the government to explore the possible sale of the project to a private investor.

Visiting the project site yesterday, the Minority said it would do whatever was necessary to compel the government to look for funding to complete the project.

According to it, the project was not a failed one, and that it was the government that had decided not to prioritise it.

"So we the Minority in Parliament are stating our position clearly that we will not want any private developer to come in at all,” the Ranking Member on the Works and Housing Committee of Parliament, Vincent Oppong Asamoah, told the media after the tour of the site.

"In 2025, we are optimistic that the National Democratic Congress will form the next government and so the project will be taken from any private developer that will partner the government to continue this project," he warned.

Observation

The visit was to enable Minority members on the Works and Housing Committee to have first-hand information on the state of the project.

The Members of Parliament (MPs) discovered that security doors, electric and telephone cables, glass windows and aluminium burglar proofs had been stolen.

Broken window glasses were also scattered on some sections of the project site, while other pieces were seen neatly arranged, not knowing what exactly they were going to be used for.

Sockets and switches were also found on the floor.

Affordable

Mr Asamoah, who is the MP for Dormaa West, said the intended purpose of the viable project was for it to be affordable and given to workers of the country through the Ghana Home Loans Company through a mortgage system.

Unfortunately, for six years, the government decided that the project be left in the bush, so that at the end of the day it could be sold to its cronies.

“I must be frank with you: I am shocked by what I am seeing. I know you are also shocked. If there is anything that we have to do as a committee to compel the government to look for funding to complete this project, without using any private developer, we have to do it,” he said.

Other MPs

Adding her voice to the issue, the MP for Awutu Senya West, Gizella Tetteh-Agbotui, said she was disappointed at the state of neglect of the facility and thievery of facilities.

“If there has been theft, that means there have been security lapses here. I think someone has to get his act together very quickly,” she said.

The MPs for Sawla-Tuna-Kalba, Twifo-Atti Morkwa and Nkoranza South, Andrew Dari Chiwitey, David T.D. Vondee and Emmanuel Kwadwo Agyekum, respectively, all spoke against the sale of the project.