Flood control drain projects which started between 2015 and 2019 have stalled and become conduits for flooding.
A special audit conducted by the Auditor-General’s Department on the drains indicates that the Hydrological Services Department (HSD) of the Ministry of Works and Housing (MWH) invested over GH¢117.7 million within the five years to construct 110 kilometres (km) of drains to tackle flooding.
However, the department did only 12km, representing 11 per cent of the target, leaving 89 per cent of the target unmet.
Out of 27 drainage projects selected for the audit, 15 had engineering defects that contributed to flooding.
Again, the auditors discovered that from 2015 to 2019, the HSD failed to construct any of the retention ponds targeted for 18 drainage basins.
“Delay in completion and stagnation of construction resulted in problems such as choking of ongoing drains by weed growth and silt build-up at the sites of suspended works,” portions of the report said.
“Residents of the communities of these suspended projects, especially the ones at the discharge ends of the drains, who were interviewed informed us that the flooding problem at the communities was worsened as a result of the suspension and non-completion of works,” it added.
The report also indicated that the inability of the HSD and the MWH to allocate sufficient budget to cover the planned length of drains and the Ministry of Finance to release funds on time to complete drainage projects caused the projects to stall.
The Auditor-General’s Department, therefore, called for the timely release of funds by the Ministry of Finance to complete abandoned drain projects to help address the perennial flooding in some parts of the country.
It also urged the HSD to allocate sufficient budget to implement targeted drainage facilities needed to mitigate flooding nationwide.
Rationale for audit
The Auditor-General commissioned the audit to ascertain how measures that the HSD implemented had been effective in mitigating flooding in the country.
The report was prepared in compliance with Article 187(2) of the 1992 Constitution and Section 13(e) of the Audit Service Act, 2000 (Act 584).
In an interview last Thursday, the Deputy Auditor-General in charge of the Performance and Special Audit Department (PSAD), Lawrence Ndaago Ayagiba, who supervised the audit, said the team identified defective drains, poor maintenance of existing drains and failure to execute targeted drainage projects as the main causes of flooding across the country.
The auditors also found that the HSD and the MWH failed to make any budgetary allocations in their annual activity plans to maintain the completed drains.
Consequently, the drains were choked with weeds, silt and debris, thereby impeding the smooth flow of water and reducing the effectiveness of existing drains to mitigate flooding.
The team found that although the drainage master plan featured prominently in the HSD’s medium-term plan, budgetary allocations had not been made for it in the annual plans of the MWH since 2013.
Mr Ayagiba explained that the performance audit was meant to find out whether value for money had been achieved — whether it had been done economically, efficiently and effectively.
“If you look at the money that has been spent, yet every year we still have floods; people are complaining and lives and properties are lost. So it became very imperative for the audit to be done,” he said.
He added that the audit was also to ascertain whether lessons had been learnt after the June 3, 2015 disaster when flooding and a fire disaster killed more than 100 people.
Drainage master plan
Mr Ayagiba said the absence of the master plan was worrying because “you cannot do drains when you do not have the master plan”.
He recalled the excuse by the HSD for not doing the drainage master plan — it was expensive — saying: “But we thought that is not a good reason.”
“We recommended that it should start preparatory work in manageable phases towards the production of the drainage master plan,” he said.
“It should phase it out and put it bit by bit in the annual plan towards the bigger product,” he said.
The audit found engineering defects in the Sakaman drain near Dansoman, while utility lines were found to be crossing the drains at Awudome, between Mechanical Lloyd and GCB Bank, and at the Achimota Church of Pentecost on the Tyrian Road, while silt was building up in the New Ningo and the Kumasi Aboabo drain projects.
The audit also found weeds growing in abandoned drains of the Akora River project in Agona Swedru, Bolga Kumbosco and the New Ningo project.
In the Ejura, Kordjor and Kumasi Amakom drain projects, gullies had developed and stagnant water had collected in the abandoned projects, while inadequate concrete cover was found at the Sakaman, Lapaz and Tepa Lot 2 drain project sites, exposing iron reinforcements, the report stated.
Other projects sampled were the Santa Maria (Plus FM), Osuwem, Mallam, East Legon and Osu Klottey (behind the Old American Embassy).
On the quality of the drains, the Deputy Auditor-General said the team looked at how the drains were done, their sizes, how they were connecting from minor to major drains and other specifications.
He explained that 27 drains were sampled across the country — 15 in the Greater Accra Region, six in Ashanti and three each in the Upper East and the Central regions.
Out of that number, the team found defective quality in 15 of them, which is about 54 per cent of the total drains projects.
Again, Mr Ayagiba said, the team realised that the reinforcements that were supposed to be in the drain were exposed and not covered by concrete.
“The quality of the work was looked at and we found that the construction of the drains did not measure up to quality standards. We had instruments to test the concrete works, the reinforcement and other things; and they did not meet the quality standards, but the contractors were paid all the same,” he said.
To address that challenge, the report recommended that the HSD and the MWH should step up monitoring and visit the field regularly to detect shoddy work early enough and insist on the right things being done.
The Deputy Auditor-General said the team found that the walls of some of the abandoned drainage projects had broken down, while the tunnels were choked with silt and overgrown weeds.
Such a development, he noted, was worrying because apart from the money that had gone waste, the stalled projects had become havens for community members to dump solid waste, thereby increasing the risk of flooding.
“When a drain is completed, it is supposed to end in either a primary or major sewage system for treatment. If it is left uncompleted, it becomes a water receptacle or a gully; water collects there, and as time goes on, it erodes the foundation of what has already been done and additional cost is incurred to do it again,” Mr Ayagiba said.
He said given the complex nature of the issues surrounding flooding, it was important for effective collaboration among stakeholders, such as the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) and the Department of Urban Roads, to ensure that they delivered their services in a way that would not obstruct the free flow of water in drains.