Anaji SSNIT Flats Residents, Waste Firm In Tussle Over New Rates

Ernest_ThompsonResidents of the SSNIT Flats at Anaji, in the Sekondi-Takoradi metropolis and VERMARK- ES, an environmental services company, are locked up in a tango, over new rates being charged by the company for waste collection in the locality.

Describing the new rates as arbitrary and lacking good will, the residents, have asked VERMARK-ES and the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolitan Assembly [STMA], to reconsider their decision and reduce the fees.

They wondered why, VERMARK, after increasing the rate to GH¢4 in December last year, should impose a 100 per cent increase (now GH¢8) last month.

In a letter headlined: ‘Increment in monthly refuse lifting cost’, dated July 29, 2013, and signed by the Executive Director of VERMARK-ES, Mark Kakraba-Ampeh, and copied to all block leaders of the flats, the company said, there had been an upward revision of the current amount residents paid as service charges for the lifting of solid waste.

“Each household is currently paying an amount of GH¢4 per month, but after careful review and deep consideration, this amount is no longer sustainable looking at materials, fuel and other operations and cost. Maintaining such an amount will hamper regular and effective services,” the letter said.

“With the increment, each household would pay GH¢8 per month effective Thursday, August 1, 2013,” it said.
But the residents said, “the decision of VERMARKN is arbitrary and lacked the principle of consultation and even in the face of the poor services we think that the new rate is too high. We won’t pay. It should be reviewed.”

They argued that the once a week collection of the wastes was not enough and also not commensurate with the new rate being imposed on them adding that, four refuse bins being used for the 16 flats, were not enough to warrant the increment.

They contended that at best, the rate should have gone toGH¢5 and later graduated. “You can’t sit down in your offices and take us for granted and fix rates that are high and lacked the principle of consultation. We are part of the environmental governance and if anything at all, we should be consulted on the matter. We cannot condone this arbitrary show of power by authorities,” they stated.

According to the residents, if the rates were moderate, people would be ready and more willing to pay.
Responding to the concerns of residents, the Assistant Operations Director of VERMARK, Gabriel Kojo Selassie, explained that, the STMA had mandated the waste management organisations to decide the fixing of rates and that the company had the responsibility to collect the rate.

He said the assembly should have written officially to the residents about the new rate before the waste managers collected them in March, this year, but that responsibility had rested on them and therefore, the company had to make announcement on the radio stations.

“Operations cost is becoming difficult to bear and we are having problems paying our workers. We have made announcement and all these have been in vain. The rate is from GH¢4 to GH¢8 and I assure you that it will benefit us,” Mr. Selassie told the residents.

“It is moderate and affordable, people should accept it and we collect it,” he said adding that the assembly was demanding an increase to GH¢10 but VERMARK decided to go for GH¢8 in areas like Namibia, Kwesimintsim, Apollo and New Site stressing that, “VERMARK would maintain the GH¢8 for now.”
“ABC Waste, RUSABEN are out of the system from December. We don’t want to go that way and collapse. In the coming years, the rate would go to GH¢15 and then to GH¢20,” he said.

Mr. Selassie , who is also a resident,noted that after 2007, no substantial increment had been made in refuse collection rates and argued that, the cost of spare-parts, diesel and lubricants had rather gone up in recent times.

The Director of Operations, Enoch Affum, told the meeting that after the fixing of the new rates, the various assembly members were supposed to brief their constituents and give the assembly feedbacks to the assembly and also address their concern, explaining ”we are standing in the position of the assembly”.

He said: “We are not here to deceive you, we are working with you to discuss the issues. GH¢8 is decent price.”

The assembly member for the area, John Davies, noted that the STMA and other assemblies were in great distress in terms of waste management in the country as government had withdrawn subsidies two three years ago, when some contractors went to court to demand their monies and that, there were so much debt piled up.

He said RUSABEN withdrew its services because of indebtedness to it and that was why VERMARK came in as a stop- gap based on the principle of polluter pays adding that, currently, the cost of waste disposal had been shifted to the person who generated that waste.

He confirmed that the new rate should have been GH¢20 but said after some consultations, VERMARK agreed to collect GH¢8 for now and later graduate the amount.

“The assembly is facing a whole lot of challenges and so we need to jaw -jaw on the matter. We are begging you. Yes, somebody should have communicated the new developments to you. We apologise,” Mr. Davies pleaded with the residents.

As the meeting could not reach any consensus on the matter, the residents asked the VERMARK officials to send their grievances to the Sekondi-Takoradi Assembly for resolution. – Clement Adzei Boye, Anaji

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