Mahama To Unveil New Look ‘Job 600’, But...

Barring any last minute hitches, and in fulfillment of the late President Mills and the NDC’s pledge to parliament in 2009, President John Dramani Mahama will in June this year commission the much awaited Job 600 office complex for Members of Ghana’s legislative House.

The aL-hAJJ can confirm that, in honouring the late President’s pledge to complete the age long project for use as suitable and congenial offices for Members of Parliament, the John Mahama-led administration has almost cleared all the bottlenecks including financial hitches, stalling the final completion of the edifice.

Reliable information gathered by this paper indicates that the Job 600 tower block, which was an initiative of Ghana’s first President, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah to serve as the venue for the 1965 meeting of the Organization of African Unity, now AU, should be ready for use by MPs just around when Parliament resumes sitting in late May or early June this year.

Currently, all the external and interior works on the building including furnishings have been completed. The only works outstanding are the electronic and ICT components and a dedicated water supply service, which high level sources in parliament say should be accomplished by the time MPs return from the Easter break.

The delay in completing the ICT and electronic components of the project, The aL-hAJJ has gathered, was due to some financial constraints which compelled the Belgium firm in charge of the installation of the electronic gadgets to abandon work midway
However, this paper is reliably informed that officials of the Belgium Company are expected back into the country soon as the Parliamentary Board is frantically sourcing for emergency funds to ensure the final completion of works on the edifice.

The provision of a dedicated water supply system to ensure uninterrupted supply of water to the edifice is also seriously tackled.

Meanwhile, sources in government say, in line with the Mahama-led administration’s promise to complete the office complex on time for MPs, it is making available all the necessary funds and logistics to get the ‘Job 600’ tower block ready for use by June this year.

The aL-hAJJ is also reliably informed that the leadership of the august House has set up a committee to start allocating the offices to MPs even before it is finally handed over to parliament.
Parliament last Friday, March 27, 2015 went on break for the Easter holidays, and it is expected that it will reconvene by the last week of May.

However, there are reports that if the opposition New Patriotic Party’s proposed 24th May parliamentary primaries come off as planned, parliament is likely to reconvene in June by which time the edifice would have been completed and ready for use.

When completed, the edifice would, among other things, provide offices for the 275 MPs and about 275 offices for the MPs’ research assistants/secretaries.

It will also provide suitable office spaces for various departments of the Parliamentary Service Board, Standing and Select Committees, a modern library with Research and Information system divisions, Staff changing rooms, Gymnasium, Auditorium, Post Office, Prayer Rooms (Chapel & Mosque), Roof lounge, Kitchen & Dining areas, Restaurant and a Clinic.

Members of Parliament have since the return of the country to constitutional rule in 1993 been without appropriate offices, a situation which has impeded their effective performance.

While the Executive and Judiciary have had their fair share of infrastructural developments, the legislature, which is the heartbeat of democratic governance, is nothing to write home about. The lack of offices for legislators, have most often compelled them to sometimes conduct parliamentary business outside the chamber or in their private vehicles.

The completion of the edifice into offices has severally been postponed, a development that prompted Ex-President John Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party to accuse his predecessor, ex-President John Rawlings of squandering a $50million grant from the World Bank meant for the completion of the parliamentary project.

In his first State-of-the-Nation Address in 2001, former President Kufuor promised the parliamentarians his government will rehabilitate and complete the office block within two years, but this was never carried through.

The total cost of the project was $62.8 million but due to expansion in the scope of work, it became necessary to source additional fund of $39 million to complete it.

The Resident Engineer for the project , Mr Ekow Bentsi, last year told journalist on a tour to the project site that, initial drawings on the project was limited in scope until some modifications were made and that despite the initial financial constraints that temporally stalled the project, those difficulties had been overcome.

Completion and commissioning of the Job 600 tower block and offices would be another feather in the cap of the Mills/Mahama administrations as the Rawlings and Kufuor governments, despite numerous promises were unable to see to the completion of the project to provide parliamentarians with decent office accommodation.

…But, Danger Looms On Another Parliamentary Building

Meanwhile, in a related development, less than a year since Ghanaians witnessed the rampant collapse of buildings in the nation’s capital which compelled the Accra Metropolitan Assembly to pull down some buildings suspected of having serious construction defects, The aL-hAJJ investigations have uncovered that another disaster of a higher magnitude could befall the nation if immediate measures are not taken.

The defunct Ghana National Trading Corporation building near parliament House, which was renovated in 2007 by the Kufour administration and converted into committee rooms and offices for departments in parliament faces imminent collapse as it has developed dangerous cracks.

The three-storey building, which was renovated by a Ghanaian firm Fridonk limited with funding from DANIDA and government of Ghana, houses the Public Affairs Directorate of Parliament, offices for leadership of Parliament and halls serving as offices for various committees of the august House of Parliament, among others.

During a recent inspection of the defects in the building by The aL-hAJJ, some parliamentary staff confirmed to this paper that the structural defects on the building was detected immediately after the contractor handed over the project to parliament but added that, the cracks have sine increased in numbers and sizes noting, “if care is not taken, an earth-shattering calamity could befall the country in the foreseeable future”.

Experts who spoke to The aL-hAJJ on condition of anonymity also predicted an imminent danger for the country, with one of them alleging that materials used for the renovation works were of inferior quality hence, the unfortunate developments we are witnessing today.

A consultant with enough knowledge about the renovation work in 2007, claimed that substandard materials used for the project could have caused the present problem because monies voted for the project was either diverted into “something else or part of it was pocked.”

A senior official at parliament revealed that despite the fact that the total cost involved on the project has been paid, the central air-condition that has also been paid for, has never function since the project was handed over to parliament. According to the unnamed official, this has compelled Parliamentary Service Board “to dig into the tax payers’ money to buy new air conditions for the various offices”.

Aside the offices, the committee rooms, the building was also to have housed the Institute of Parliamentary Studies to serve as a training center for capacity-building for Members of Parliament and Parliamentary staff but, which unfortunately, was lost to Nigeria.
The institute was also to have served as a resource center for the training of visiting parliamentary staff and MPs from other countries to Ghana to study parliamentary proceedings.

Many have observed that looking at the number of prominent people who use the building on daily basis “if immediate steps are not taken to remedy the situation, the country could lose some of its prominent citizens in the event of any mishap.”

Last year, many people lost their lives, especially in Accra, due to collapse of some high rise buildings. This forced the authorities at the Accra Metropolitan assembly to pull down lots of structures with serious defects in the capital city.