The Ministry of Environment, Science Technology and Innovation (MESTI) has signalled its commitment to lead the process to ensure that the Land Use and Spatial Planning Authority (LUSPA) fully asserts its influence.
The move would enable the Authority to enforce its laws and reclaim and preserve green zones in the country.
These green zones include Ramsar sites and other international designated spots under the criteria of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands for containing representative, rare or unique wetland types or for their importance in conserving biological diversity.
Dr Kwaku Afriyie was responding to an appeal made by the leadership of LUSPA to amend its legal framework to enable them to wield more authority to sanitise the system.
During a familiarisation visit in Accra on Thursday, the Minister explained that because part of the Authority’s mandate was ceded to the local assembly as part of the decentralization process, LUSPA’s success would depend on the output at the operations at the local level.
However, he thought that the Authority needed to be given some form of control at its headquarters to monitor and enforce a part of the spatial planning laws.
The Minister, therefore, admitted the need to enhance the working relationships between the Authority and other Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAS) at all the levels of governance, within the context of the Decentralization Programme.
According to its set-up, LUSPA at its national level is responsible for policy formulation, standards-setting, training, monitoring and evaluation, among others.
Dr Afriyie assured that “We will look at the law, seek for further interpretation and where there are gaps, we will rectify through amendment. When you are proclaimed authority in the narrowest sense of the word it means you have the power to crack the whip,“ he said.
On his part, Mr Kwadwo Yeboah, the Acting Head of LUSPA, indicated that due to the nature of its operating structure, the Authority had continued to receive complaints against the spatial planning practices in the country, especially at the local level of operation for alleged negligence of duty, poor performance and unprofessional practices.
He said, for instance, a recent monitoring exercise had revealed that 60 per cent of district assembles do not adhere to the land use and spatial planning functions as prescribed by law.
He explained that effective land use and spatial planning led to improved economic growth, orderly human settlements, improved safety, the convenience of movements and beautification of spaces.
Mr Yeboah said even though an appreciable level of progress had been made over the past four years, there were more opportunities to be explored to further transform the Authority into a more effective and efficient institution in the discharge of its mandate.
Therefore, the Authority had started building strategic partnerships with the relevant stakeholders to embark on a programme that would involve the sensitisation and education of the public on planning issues.
It was also building the skills and capacity of its planners at all levels of governance, Mr Yeboah said.
He, however, appealed to the Minister to help the Authority to establish the land use and spatial planning development fund as prescribed by the law, and also lobby for an increment of its budgetary allocation, as well as to support it to construct a new office space.