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Reforming The Licensing, Permitting And Certification Regime For Business Operations In Ghana

By G.D. Zaney


The process of acquiring licenses and permits for business operations in Ghana, a key determinant of private sector development is fraught with several challenges, research studies have revealed.

 

The challenges, the studies show, include unco-ordinated/disjointed inspection by agencies; the absence of an electronic platform to aid the process of application; inadequate human resource at the respective agencies to facilitate efficient service delivery; lack of awareness by applicants on the processes and procedures for application; and inadequate financial resources to facilitate service delivery, a situation compounded by the lack of retention of user fees, as such fees are paid into the Consolidated Fund.

 

The others are a poor fee structure not based on cost of services, as the private sector is not consulted in the fixing of user fees; outmoded and obsolete laws; and the absence of a formalized training programme and manuals for the training of inspectors.

 

In response to the challenges and as part of its advocacy role in an effort to promote private sector growth and national economic development, the Private Enterprise Federation (PEF) has recommended measures to effectively address the challenges.

 

According to PEF, the inspection of premises or workplace requires a joint collaborative mechanism while application processes should be decentralized through the use of an electronic or internet platform with complementary bank accounts as well as the introduction of a digital database for future tracking and research.

 

Furthermore, according to PEF, an efficient permitting, licensing and certification regime requires the recruitment and retention of additional technical staff for effective inspection and issuance of permits; the retention of user fees for administrative purposes and innovative processes; and a well-structured consultation with the private sector in fixing user fees based on the cost of services.

 

PEF has also identified the need for a sustained public awareness creation campaign on the requirements, processes and timelines of permits, licensing and certificates for the operation of businesses.

 

More importantly, PEF has recommended the repeal or amendment of Cap 84 of 1945 to reflect current trends, the passage and implementation of a new Land Use and Spatial Planning Bill as well as the review of the Factories, Offices and Shops Act, 1970 (Act 328) to reflect current trends.

 

These recommendations, it is important to note, have been informed by research.
For example in 2008, at the request of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, a study of the regime for business registration in Ghana was carried out which examined the time and cost for complying with the requirements for registration with the  Companies Registry, Internal Revenue Service and various local government agencies.

 

This research effort was followed by another in 2009 and sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in partnership with the then Private Enterprise Foundation to establish all licensing or permit requirements affecting businesses in Ghana.

Results of the study showed that about 145 business licenses or permits were in force in Ghana with variform impacts and degrees on business operations.

 

The latest of these studies was undertaken by the PEF with support from the Business Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) Fund in 2010/2011 which identified seven cross-sectoral licensing requirements-licenses or permits requirements applicable to all businesses regardless of the sector of operation-in Ghana.

 

These seven cross-sectoral licensing requirements are the Business Registration and Commencement Certificate issued by the Registrar-General’s Department; Environmental Permit issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the supervision of the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI); Environmental

Certificate, also issued by EPA under the supervision of MESTI; and the Fire Certificate issued by the Ghana National Fire Service.

 

The others are the Building/Construction Permit (Renovation and Demolition Permit) issued by the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) and the Town and Country Planning Department (TCPD) under the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) and MESTI, respectively; Business Operating Permit issued by various MMDAs under MLGRD; and the Factories, Offices and Shops Certificate issued by the Department of Factories Inspectorate  (DFI) under the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare.

 

DFI is the government agency charged with the responsibility of enforcing OSH standards and of registering Factories, Offices and Shops so as to establish the identity of all workplaces in Ghana.

 

DFI is also charged with the responsibility of conducting periodic factory inspections to ensure that factories conformed to industrial hygiene standards and do not expose workers to dangerous substances and machines at the workplace.

 

DFI also has the mandate to conduct educational forums and hygienic surveys as well as offer advice to leaders of enterprises in order to help them prevent diseases and injuries.

 

When accidents occur, it is the responsibility of FDI to investigate and recommend the prosecution of the offenders.
Article 24 (1) of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana provides that “Every person has the right to work under satisfactory, safe and healthy conditions, and shall receive equal pay for equal work without distinction of any kind.”

 

In Article 36 (10) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, it is provided that “The state shall safeguard the health, safety and welfare of all persons in employment, and shall establish the basis for the full deployment of the creative potential of all Ghanaians,” while Article 36 (11) provides that “The state shall encourage the participation of workers in the decision-making process at the workplace.

 

The implementation of these constitutional requirements, no doubt, requires a national policy framework which Ghana currently lacks.

 

Three years ago, April 29, 2013, on World Day of Safety and Health at work, information made available to the media was that a National Policy on OSH, derived from the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 155 on OSH of 1989 and ILO Convention 187 on Promotional Framework on Occupational Health and Safety had been formulated.

 

Information made available to the media also indicated that the draft policy, whose development was led by the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations (MELR) with support from the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), was awaiting cabinet approval.

 

Similarly, Hon. Nii Armah Ashietey, the then Minister, MELR, in a key note address delivered at the Accra International Conference Centre on Monday, April 29, 2013 on the occasion of World Day of Safety and Health at Work, disclosed that ILO was supporting MELR to develop OSH legislation and that plans were far advanced for the construction of a Labour Office Complex to house DFI and other labour-related Departments of the Ministry.

 

Apparently, work is yet to be completed on the policy out of which the law will emanate.

And for the absence of a policy, the experts say, the quality of OSH at work places in Ghana remains substandard.

 

Without a policy direction for OSH development, the efficiency of the operations of FDI are limited, to the extent that it can hardly undertake any effective inspection in new areas such as agriculture, hazardous machines and oil and gas, or effectively conduct hygienic monitoring in the absence of the requisite equipment.

 

Indeed, it is only when a policy is developed that government can enact a law on OSH and set up structures including a competent administrative authority that will provide a framework for OSH governance.

 

The writer is an officer of the Information Services Department.

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