Governance is supposed to be a continuum, such that development policies and initiatives of an outgoing administration must be seen to its planned completion timelines and outcomes by the succeeding administration.
Regrettably, projects in Ghana are the exception that proves the rule. Successive governments in Ghana have gained a certain notoriety for abandoning projects initiated by their predecessors, rendering them as White Elephants and leaving the nation poorer in huge losses.
With the excuse of reviewing the past administration’s contracts for procurement breaches and inappropriate award of contracts in order to protect the national purse, successive governments have abandoned or delayed the completion of important projects.
“We still face problems of inadequate infrastructure in our health establishments. We have problems of numerous structures at various stages of completion that cannot be finished and brought into use, because newer structures are being started, and there is no money to finish the ones started earlier,” President Akufo-Addo admitted to that unfortunate practice in his February 2019 State of the Nation Address (SONA) delivered in 2019.
Running into hundreds of millions of dollars, these projects are funded with huge loans hanging around the neck of the state and attracting more interests while the nation is deprived of their intended benefits.
“Mr Speaker, again, this is a long-standing problem that is a mark of our underdevelopment. We will not ignore or sweep the problem under the carpet. We are dealing with it, and will complete them,” President Akufo-Addo assured the nation in his 2019 SONA.
But when the Next Generation Investigative Journalism Fellows of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) travelled across the country to investigate some of these “abandoned” health projects, the outcomes were quite revealing and substantially at variance with the president’s assurance.
Kumawu District Hospital
In 2014, the inhabitants of Kumawu, Bodomase, Effiduase, Ejisu, Kwaman, and other towns in the Kumawu District heaved a sigh of relief, and properly so, because they were expecting to have a district hospital for the first time in their long history. They expected the facility within the following three years at the very least.
According to the Ministry of Health, a total of 86.12 acres of land and $38.8 million (about Ghc232 million) had been set aside for the construction of a “state-of-the-art district hospital, plus other developmental initiatives”.
Hospital attendance in the Sekyere-Kumawu area has been growing steadily over the years, according to official statistics, demanding prompt action to meet the challenge.
In 2015, patients’ attendance at hospital or health facilities in the district was expected to increase by 50%, and the 120-bed district hospital project, designed for a capacity expansion of 200 beds, was considered a blessing to address the healthcare needs of the people.
The Kumawu District Hospital project was planned to be completed and handed over in 2017. Eight years after a vast land was cleared and some major works started, signaling reality over rhetoric, the about 100,000 residents in the Kumawu District enclave are yet to see their dream come true.
Investigative journalist Michael Aidoo recently visited the hospital project site in March 2022 and reports that although a number of workers were on site, no serious business was going on beyond a few people sweeping the compound and others tinkering with one thing or another. Some of the buildings meant to house health workers had been collapsed and new ones were under construction.
Most of the major buildings had been roofed. All of the auxiliary buildings were not roofed, but in either case, windows were yet to be fixed to the structures.
There are just three clinics in the Bodomase, Kumawu, and Kwaman catchment areas. They are unable to handle all the healthcare needs of the people, especially emergency cases. Critically ill patients in Kwaman and Nsuta, for example, are sent to Agogo and Mampong, while those in Bodomase, Dadease, Kumawu, and Oyoko are transported to Effiduase for medical care.
According to the residents, the absence of a district hospital to cater for their healthcare needs is threatening their health and lives.
Fomena District Hospital
In 2014, the government of Ghana got $175 million for the construction of the Fomena District Hospital and five other hospitals.
But by 2017, the project had stalled.
However, in 2019, the government announced that it had secured $40 million to complete the Fomena District Hospital and the five other ones by March 2021.
But a year later, the hospital is yet to be completed.
Fomena is the capital of the Adansi North District with a population of about 110,000. The only medical facility in the district capital currently is a Community Health Planning and Services (CHPS) Compound, a mechanism to deliver basic health services to communities in the sub-districts.
Many of the residents of the town and its surrounding areas are compelled to seek medical care from the Bekwai District Hospital and the St. Bedito Hospital in New Edubiase, as well as Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi in extreme cases. Travelling long distances to seek healthcare, the residents say, is compounding their already precarious financial condition.
This is why residents in the district rejoiced when work on the Fomena District Hospital began in 2014. At long last, they thought, the battle for good healthcare at short distance had ended.
The facility, when (or if) completed, can also serve the practical needs of trainee nurses and midwives of the nursing training college in the town. It will save them the trouble of having to travel to Kumasi to do their practical training at KATH and the SDA Hospital.
The Fomena District Hospital bears a lot of semblances to the Kumawu District Hospital, and the reason may not be far-fetched. Together with six other hospitals in other regions of the country, the two contracts for the construction of the hospitals in Fomena and Kumawu were signed under the same turnkey arrangement with Messrs NMS Infrastructure.
The Fomena District Hospital is also a 120-bed (extendable to 200-bed) facility.
However, that expectation of the people in the area remains a mirage, eight years after work started. Not even a presidential pledge to get the job done could redeem it from abandonment.
President Nana Akufo-Addo, in response to a joint petition by Citi FM and OccupyGhana over abandoned projects, in August 2018, outlined plans to operationalise the Fomena District Hospital and strategies to improve general healthcare in the country.
Interestingly, those plans and strategies are yet to transmute into reality, almost four years after the presidential proclamation.
According to the District Chief Executive of Adansi North, Eric Kwaku Kusi, only 5% of work remained to be done on the project as of January 2019 when the abandoned facility became a subject of media discussion.
However, more than three years after that report and the President’s pledge to redeem it, that outstanding 5% of work is yet to be done to complete the project for use.
Unlike the Kumawu District Hospital, which is essentially cut off from the main towns in the targeted beneficiary areas, the Fomena District Hospital is about 500 metres from the main road and is surrounded by high profile entities – good roads and a nursing and midwifery training college.
But according to Michael Aidoo, who visited the project site on March 3, 2022, the Fomena District Hospital, which has oxygen plants, air-conditioners and other equipment already installed, is now surrounded by seven-feet-tall weeds.
It is yet to be seen when the remaining 5% of work to be done on the facility will begin.
Fomena District Hospital
Afari Military Hospital
The proposed name, Afari Military Hospital, is only nominal; it does not imply that the health facility is primarily meant for military officers and men, as well as their civilian staff. It is meant for the general public, particularly those in and near the host district, Atwima-Nwabiagya in the Ashanti Region.
The Afari Military Hospital, unlike the district hospitals in Fomena and Kumawu, has all of its structures beautifully painted and roofed; air-conditioners and other outdoor equipment have been installed, and a road connecting it to the main Nkawie-Abuakwa Road has been constructed.
However, there are a few things that need to be addressed before the facility can be turned on, according to a respectable insider who wants to remain anonymous. The source further disclosed that beds and other internal items had been acquired and dumped in the rooms under lock-and-key for more than six months as at the time Michael Aidoo visited the facility on March 5, 2022.
This project, the source submits, should have been completed a long time ago, blaming the situation on inertia rather than any other factor. According to the source, if the government takes the project seriously and prioritises people before politics, this facility could be completed in a matter of days or weeks.
Although the Government of Ghana signed the $180-million contract with Messrs Euroget Da Invest SA (EDI) in 2008, actual construction commenced in 2014 and the project was expected to be completed and handed over after 42 months (2018) to serve as a major referral centre and also provide primary health care services in Ghana.
However, after 81 months, and more than three years after its scheduled completion date under the administration of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) the project is as good as White Elephant.
Ashanti Regional Hospital
Like in other regions, the Ashanti Region presently has a regional hospital at KATH. The idea, however, is to move the regional hospital from KATH to a proposed new site at Sewua.
Handled by EDI, the same contractors working on the Afari Military Hospital, the proposed new Ashanti Regional Hospital and the Afari Military Hospital have many things in common, at least at a glance: same level of completion, same colour of paint and of roofing, and similar design of internal roads, among other identities.
The $64-million hospital project is expected to be furnished with the most modern technology that will ease the burden on other hospitals and serve the over five million (5,440,463) people living in the Ashanti Region.
Garu-Tempane District Hospital
The Garu-Tempane District Hospital is a 138-bed capacity hospital project that is supposed to serve residents in the district, which has no government hospital currently.
When completed, the hospital is projected to house two operating theaters, a theatre recovery unit, an intensive care unit, a surgical ward (male and female), accident and emergency wards, observation/out-patient ward, maternity, and obstetrics/gynecology ward. The rest are the pediatric ward, public health unit, dental unit, radiology unit, pharmacy/dispensary, laboratory, blood bank, consulting rooms, accommodation for core staff, and other facilities.
Statistics form the Ministry of Health show that the Upper East Region of Ghana has over 1.3 million out-patient attendances and over 55,000 in-patient admissions each year. The figures keep growing.
The original site earmarked for the project by the then Mahama-led administration (which was cleared) has been changed to a new site (quite a distance from the old site but still in Garu), and it now forms part of the government’s ‘Agenda 111’ hospital projects, which began in 2021.
When investigative journalist Redeemer Buatsi visited the site on Monday, March 7, 2022, it had been locked, and working tools and machines were parked. There was no sign of workers on site, and there was no security at the time of the visit.
Work had not gone beyond the foundation level, although some heaps of gravels could be seen on site.
A project signpost, which stood nearby, depicting Starry Company Limited as the contractor with MulitiLead Ltd as consultant, reads: ‘Ghana Priority Health Infrastructure Project – Agenda 111’.
Takoradi-European Hospital Upgrade
The Takoradi-European Hospital in Takoradi is part of the six turnkey district hospital projects under a $175-million contract with the Ministry of Health.
The project involves the construction of seven multi-storey apartment blocks for staff accommodation at the existing Takoradi European Hospital. Per the agreement, the Takoradi-European Hospital upgrade has been split into two phases, the first of which involves the construction of hospital staff housing and an infectious disease centre.
The second phase involves the construction of 46 modern apartments for nurses’ accommodation in seven blocks at Takoradi, which has reached its final stage now.
Work on the site had stalled for years now, according to investigative journalist Leonard Agyei, who visited the project site on March 2, 2022.
Abetifi District Hospital
Abetifi is the capital of the Kwahu East District, but due to lack of hospital in the town, residents have to travel a long distance to Atibie and elsewhere to seek medical care.
The construction of the Abetifi District Hospital, which started in 2015, is meant to address this major healthcare challenge.
However, construction work stalled in 2016 after a change in government, and it has now become a ‘security zone’ with heavy security presence on the project site.
According to investigative journalist Esther Adomah Osei, who visited the project site on March 1, 2022, the abandoned facility, at near-completion stage, is fast deteriorating.
While residents attributed the stalling of the project to an investigation into financial malpractices in respect of the award of contract for the project, a source close to the contractor working on the project, says it is due to the inability of the government to pay the contractor.
The writers of this report, Michael Aidoo, Redeemer Buatsi, Leonard Kofi Agyei and Esther Adomah Osei, are Fellows of the Next Generation Investigative Journalism Fellowship at the Media Foundation for West Africa.