Monday, December 31, 2007

Ministry Pays 90 % of Contract Works Under 2007 Fiscal Year

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah. December 29,2007 (spread)
THE Ministry of Finance has stated that it has paid about 90 per cent of contract works that were budgeted for in the 2007 fiscal year.
It said payments to some road and building contractors working on government projects had delayed because some ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) gave out contracts over and above their budgetary allocation for the year, a situation the ministry observed was making it difficult for some contractors to get paid on time.
Reacting to a letter carried by the Daily Graphic on December 10, 2007, with the headline: “The Agony of Building and Road Contractors”, written by Seidu Sofo of Navrongo in the Upper East Region, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, said it was unfortunate that the decision by some MDAs to give out additional contracts besides what was budgeted for usually created problems when it came to payment.
A summary of financial position compiled by the Ghana Road Fund and presented by the minister indicated that out of a GH¢107,414,892.00 allocated for works on highways, urban and feeder roads for the 2007 fiscal year, GH¢94,279,0455.61 had been disbursed at the end of November, 2007.
Mr Baah-Wiredu explained that it was not the intention of the government to delay the payment of works, adding that it was always difficult to raise funds to make prompt payments outside the budget.
Seidu Sofo, in the letter, said contractors went through a lot of nightmare and unpalatable experiences to undertake constructional works. He said they borrowed money and building materials at very exorbitant cost, but after the completion of projects, cumbersome procedures were followed for between six months and year, or even more, before they got paid.
He observed that interest rates kept soaring and contractors used every means to avoid harassment by the suppliers of building materials.
“It is not easy, especially within the road sector, to be specific the Department of Urban Roads. While the department pays unrealistic rates, it also unduly delays payments. The whole of this year, only six contractors have been paid, while the majority are still waiting. The reason is that the government is broke.”
Mr Baah-Wiredu observed that although it was true that some contractors had not been paid, it was not correct that the whole of this year, only six contractors had been paid.
The Finance Minister said inasmuch as he sympathised with those who had not been paid for work done, he wished that the writer should have had his facts right instead of presenting a wrong fact for public consumption.
Mr Baah-Wiredu said the ministry was prepared to publish the names and addresses of all contractors who had been paid so far and the amount involved.
He said in addition to paying for jobs given out this year, the government had to take care of indebtedness brought forward from 2006.
He expressed displeasure at the attitude of those MDAs who failed to make things clear to contractors they engaged to work for them and advised that such groups should be told exactly when they could pay them for them to plan accordingly.
The Chief Director of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Nana Juaben-Boateng Sirebour, pointed out that to avoid a situation where some contractors had to wait for too long to receive payments, the MDAs which engaged them should pay those who first finished their work.
He advised that the MDAs involved should concentrate on paying the old debts instead of awarding new contracts.
The Director of Budget, Mr Kwabena Adjei-Mensah, said there was the need to find means to raise enough revenue to enable the country to pay for the needed infrastructure, adding that for instance, funds raised from petroleum tax by the Ghana Road Fund for road construction was not enough to take care of the demand for new roads and rehabilitation works.

Pact on Business French Project

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah. December 28, 2007 (page 34)
THE Ministry of Trade, Industry, Private Sector Development (PSD) and the President’s Special Initiative (PSI) has signed a consultancy contract with five institutions to train Ghanaians in speaking French for business purposes.
The institutions to undertake the “Business French Project” which begins early next year, are the Deloitte and Touché, Alliance Francaise, Chambre De Commerce et D’Industrie de Paris and Integrated Solutions.
Signing the contract on behalf of the ministry, the sector Minister, Mr Joe Baidoe-Ansah, said the Business French Project was designed to reduce and reinforce the French linguistic barriers with an overall objective of improving Ghana’s integration with the West African sub-region.
The Minister said about 360 stakeholders in both private and government institutions would be trained in the initial stages of the project which would offer three levels of training for beginners, intermediate and advanced levels.
The French government is to finance the project under its Trade Capacity Building programme for developing countries.
Mr Baidoe-Ansah pointed out that “as we all know, apart from the sea on the South, Ghana is surrounded by French speaking countries on all other sides. Moreover, 10 out of the 15 members states of the Economic Commission of West Africa States (ECOWAS) speak French”.
He said the inability of majority of Ghanaians to speak French was a big obstacle for the Ghanaian businessmen to take advantage of trade opportunities in the Francophone countries in ECOWAS.
He said the advanced level of the project would combine linguistic training with more technical aspects, including commercial law.
He said in anticipation of any challenges that could arise in the initial period, the ministry had constituted a “Business French Steering Committee” to manage any such challenges.
The minister stated that international trade provided an important engine for private sector development and reduction in global poverty, adding that initiatives to accelerate trade through removal of non-tariff barriers and lowered trade costs were now increasingly recognised as key factors that affected private sector performance.
Mr Baidoe-Ansah said trade facilitation reforms could, therefore, have important benefits for development by stimulating trade, attracting foreign direct investment, improving the collection of trade taxes and reducing incentives for smuggling and corruption with its resultant reduction in transaction costs.
Speaking on behalf of the institutions, a representative of Deloitte and Touché’, Mr Francis Kpogo-Diaba, gave the assurance that the institutions would help make the learning of French attractive to business people.

Ghana Eurobond Wins Award

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah. December 24, 2007
GHANA’s Eurobond issue which successfully raised $750 million on the international capital market in September this year has won two prestigious international awards.
The awards, 2007 Emerging Market Bond of the Year and the Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (EEMEA) Bond of the Year, will be presented on January 14, 2008 by the International Financial Review (IFR) at its 13th gala dinner in London, United Kingdom.
The country has also been commended for the able manner in which it presented its case during the transaction by fulfilling all conditions attached to the transaction.
Ghana, which went to the international market in September 27, 2007, for the first time, saw its sovereign bond denominated in the dollar, oversubscribed by over 400 per cent, amounting to US$3.7 billion.
A letter of invitation from the IFR office in London to Ghana’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, commended Ghana for its excellent performance during the transaction.
“We want to congratulate you again on this extremely successful transaction and this most prestigious award in recognition of you and Ghana’s team’s vision and relentless efforts”, it stated.
The IFR is said to be the world’s leading source of capital publication on capital market. Published weekly, it provides investment banking decision makers with authoritative information and analysis. It also provides capital market coverage data, analysis and commentary on significant issues across the asset classes such as debt and equity, capital markets, securitisation and syndicated loans and emerging markets.
The award is said to be the industry’s most prestigious, and the award ceremony is widely considered to be the leading event in the global capital markets calendar.
Her Royal Highness, Princess Anne of Great Britain, will be attending in her capacity as President of Save the Children and will also participate in the awards ceremony together with Matthew Davies , the Editor of the IFR.
A statement attached to the invitation letter indicated that by establishing sub-Saharan Africa’s first liquid bench mark outside South Africa, the Republic of Ghana had provided a substantial boost to the continent’s financial markets and fund raising prospects.
It mentioned that 2007 brought several “firsts” for the African continent, adding that Nigerian banks took centre stage earlier on as Guaranty Trust Bank of Nigeria launched inaugural senior and sub-ordinated bonds in January and March.
In addition, Egypt came to the limelight, printing a debut US$1.05 billion local currency-denominated transaction in July which priced inside the domestic curve.
“The Republic of Ghana NR/B+/B+ attracted the most attention, however, securing an outstanding book of US$3.25 billion for September’s debut of US$750 million 10 year Reg 144a Eurobond”, it stressed.
A bond is a debt security in which the authorised issuer (the borrower) owes the holder a debt (lender) and is obliged to repay the principal and interest (the coupon) at a later date, termed maturity.
Eurobond simply means a bond issued in another currency other than in the issuing country’s currency. It is often issued in another country instead of the issuing country. Nations with very high or unpredictable inflation or with unstable exchange rates often find it uneconomical to issue bonds in their own currencies and so are forced to issue bonds denominated in more stable foreign currencies.
Analysts stated that many factors contributed to the over-subscription of Ghana’s bond which included the strong macro-economics performance of the economy and the general favourable outlook for the economy.
They cited cocoa and gold prices, the two main foreign exchange earners for the country, which had seen considerable price appreciation on the international market, hitting an all time record. Cocoa and gold prices are now around $942 and $772 respectively.
Another factor is investors’ appetite for new instruments following the falling of the United States interest rates on a 10-year government bonds to 4.61 per cent as of September 29, 2007.
The government of Ghana has indicated its intention to use the funds in two major areas of the economy, namely energy and transportation.
In an interview in Accra, Mr Baah-Wiredu said the country was able fulfil all the requirements needed for the transaction, adding that all the necessary information was accurately provided, and on time.
He commended all individuals and groups who played roles in that success story. He, however, reiterated the need for continuous hardwork, adding that “there is no need for complacency. All of us have to work hard in the coming years”.

Chieftancy Disputes: Blame Rich City Dwellers

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah. December 19, 2007 (spread lead)
THE Minister of Chieftaincy and Culture, Mr Samson Kwaku Boafo, has blamed chieftaincy disputes on some rich city dwellers who turn themselves into kingmakers overnight and foment trouble in the communities.
He said among those trouble makers were some sub-chiefs, who, because they are wealthy, behaved as if they had more authority than paramount chiefs.
At his turn at the Meet-the-Press series organised by the Ministry of Information and National Orientation in Accra yesterday, Mr Boafo touched on the importance of the chieftaincy institution and said it should be encouraged to play its role for the benefit of the society.
The Minister pointed out that traditional leaders served as the medium through whom the colonial government conducted their administrative functions within the communities and said it was, therefore, the intention of the ministry to revive those positive qualities within the traditional institutions in the present democratic dispensation to effectively partner the government to enhance good governance.
He stated that in order to minimise conflicts in the area of customary law and land inheritance, the National House of Chiefs, in collaboration with the Law Reform Commission and the German Development Co-operation (GTZ) had launched a project to ascertain and codify customary law relating to family and land issues.
In that direction, he said that the ministry had recently organised seminars for some selected traditional rulers in the northern and southern zones on a pilot basis, adding that the project would continue next year to cover 20 traditional areas in all the 10 regions.
Mr Boafo also talked about efforts being made by the ministry to resolve some of the conflicts in the communities and said in addition to the role being played by the Houses of Chiefs in resolving conflicts, people in disputes were being encourage to use Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to settle cases out of court.
To embark on capacity building for traditional authorities and their support staff, as well as staff of the ministry, he said there were plans to establish a Royal College in collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Environment.
On culture, the Minister said the month of November every year had been set aside as Culture Awareness Month and as a reference point for reviving the rich Ghanaian culture “that is fast being eroded by the influx of foreign cultures”.
He also touched on plans to further conduct research into archaeological and historical sites in the country to determine their viability for wealth creation and also collaborate with the Ministry of Tourism and Diasporan Relations to explore the tourism potential of these sites.
He talked about the promotion of made in Ghana products through exhibitions and cultural festivals, and facilitation of formation of drama clubs in second cycle schools, among other activities, and added that his ministry, in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and Diasporan Relations, intended to vigorously promote domestic tourism to encourage Ghanaians to appreciate and preserve their national heritage and create wealth in the communities.
On international relations, Mr Boafo pointed out that there had been development of excellent relations with all the foreign missions in Ghana, the United Nations (UN) agencies in Ghana, especially the United Nations Education Science and Culture Organisation (UNESCO), the KwaZulu-Natal Province in South Africa, the British Museum and the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.
He hinted that there were plans to organise an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) cultural carnival in Accra and said ministers of the member countries were currently working on the programme.
On her part, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mrs Oboshie-Sai Cofie, who was the chairperson for the programme, used the occasion to appeal to Ghanaians to give out Christmas gifts comprising made in Ghana products beginning from this year, adding that “we need to promote our own products”.

Two Dealing in Fake Cards Arrested

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah December 15-12-2007
THE Accra Central Police have in their custody, two suspects who were alleged to have issued fake Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Brown Cards to unsuspecting clients.
The two — Francis Mensah, 30, who is believed to operate illegally (Goro Boy) at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), and Seth Attah Frimpong, 24, an assistant to a car dealer in Accra — were arrested last Tuesday after a tip-off.
A third suspect, who is known only as WO and believed to be the brain behind the deal, is currently on the run.
Briefing the Daily Graphic in Accra on Thursday, the Nima Divisional Police Commander, Chief Superintendent of Police Angwubutoge Awuni, said the suspects had in their possession a fake Star Assurance Company official stamp and four booklets of ECOWAS Brown Cards during their arrest.
ECOWAS Brown Card is a special vehicle insurance card for people in the ECOWAS member countries which enable possessors to drive from one country to another without any hindrance.
Mr Awuni said unsuspecting clients were made to pay GH¢80 (¢800,000) instead of the stipulated GH¢120 (¢1.2 million) for each fake card.
The Chief Superintendent said when one of such cards was shown to officials of the Star Assurance Company as part of the investigation, both the stamp and a signature on it were found to be fake.
He stated that when the police visited a shop allegedly owned by WO, the suspect on the run, it was locked and the owner was nowhere to be found.
Mr Awuni stressed that an initial investigations into the matter had revealed that the group belonged to a syndicate and gave the assurance that the police was doing all it could to arrest the rest of the members. He, therefore, appealed to the public to assist in this regard.
He pointed out that investigations were ongoing and the suspects would be sent to court in the next few days.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Government urged to reduce taxes on essential medicines.

Back Page Lead
Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
A group of researchers engaged by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to study the prices of medicines in Ghana have recommended a reduction in taxes and tariffs on all essential medicines to make them affordable.
Using figures from the Ghana Universal Salary Structure (GUSS) of July 1, 2004 which placed the lowest government worker at ¢9,348.30 or slightly over US$1.00 per day, the survey indicated that about 45 per cent of Ghanaians could not afford essential medicines.
The research revealed that import duties, port charges and what it termed facility mark-ups, also contributed greatly to the high price of medicines.
To further reduce the costs, the group in addition called for the encouragement and support of local manufacturing of essential medicines.
The study, which was published in 2006, with the title, “Medicine Prices in Ghana: A Comparative Study of Public, Private and Mission Sector Medicine Prices” was a collaborative effort between the MOH through the Ghana National Drugs Programme (GNDP), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Health Action International, a non governmental organisation (NGO).
As part of the survey, the cost of usual treatment was calculated for some common diseases, which were compared to the daily wage of the lowest paid government worker.
Affordability, according to the report, was measured by the cost of treatment in relation to the income of the lowest government worker, which was as of July 1, 2004 when the data was collected, ¢9,348.30 or slightly over US$1.00 per day.
Based on these figures, the survey revealed that in Ghana, where about 45 per cent of the population lived on less than US$1.00 per day, and the lowest government worker earned only about US$1.00 per day, the prices of medicines were high.
The survey indicated that it would require 3.9 days’ wages for such a person to purchase artesunate amodiaquine which was the country’s first line treatment of malaria from a private facility and 2.8 days’ wages to buy the same medicine from a mission hospital.
“For the treatment of severe hypertension requiring a combination of two or more medicines, the lowest government worker required similar number of days’ wages to buy the atenolol and hydrochlorothiazide for a 30-day treatment in all three sectors: 1.7 days in the public and mission sectors; and two days’ wages in the private retail pharmacy sector”, it noted.
Touching on treatment of typhoid fever, the report said the lowest paid worker would require six days wages to buy the lowest priced generic medicine (ciprofloxacin) in all the three sectors
Other recommendations made by the researchers included the implementation of the policy on generic prescription and dispensing, since generic medicines were normally cheaper and affordable.
They also touched on the need to develop guidelines for all sectors, and to enforce compliance with a maximum mark-up policy, adding that policy makers should explore avenues for the establishment of an autonomous National Polled Procurement System to cater for all sectors of the health system.
It was also suggested that the findings of the survey should be used for more in-depth review of policy options to improve access to medicines in general.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Medicinal Values of Sesame Seeds.

Page 7.
Article: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
ALL of a sudden, sesame seeds have become popular on the streets of Accra and are being displayed everywhere. Hawkers, mostly young women, are seen on the streets and in the communities carrying trays full of sesame seeds in sachet bags for sale. While some are roasted and neatly packed for sale, others are in powdered form. For those who have never purchased any and want to do that now, the minimum amount one can buy a sachet of sesame seeds is GH¢1 (¢10,000).
Sesame, which some few months ago was not common in the southern part of the country, is commonly used by those living in the three northern regions.
In case one does not know what I am referring to, sesame seeds are those little grainy seeds, bagged in sachet and are carried by hawkers along our streets. Sesame are crispy little seeds with a nutty flavour. Elsewhere, sesame seeds are mostly used in savoury dishes or desserts, and are often sprinkled on baked foods.
Ignorantly, some Ghanaians refer to them as mustard seeds, that wonderful seeds Christ mentioned whiles talking about faith in the Bible. The seeds are known as bungu in Dagbani and it is used in preparing tubani, a special meal wrapped in green leaves and eaten with seasoned powered pepper.
Various information on the subject gathered on the Internet revealed that Sesame (Sesamum indicum) is a flowering plant in the genus Sesamum. The precise natural origin of the species is unknown, although numerous wild species occur in Africa and a smaller number in India. It is widely naturalised in tropical regions around the world and is cultivated for its edible seeds.
It is an annual plant which grows to 50 to 100 cm (2-3 feet) tall, with opposite leaves 4 to 14 cm (5.5 inches) long with an entire margin; they are broad lanceolate, to 5 cm (2 in) broad, at the base of the plant, narrowing to just 1 cm (half an inch) broad on the flowering stem. The flowers are white to purple, tubular, 3 to 5 cm (1 to 2 inch) long, with a four-lobed mouth.
The information has it that in spite the fact that the majority of the wild species of the Sesame plants are native to sub-Saharan Africa, it is also argued that the plant was first domesticated in India.
The word sesame is from Latin Sesamum, borrowed from the Greek word sámon "seed or fruit of the sesame plant".
Mythological background
According to Assyrian legend, when the gods met to create the world, they drank wine made from sesame seeds. In early Hindu legends, tales are told in which sesame seeds represent a symbol of immortality. "Open sesame", the famous phrase from the Arabian Nights, reflects the distinguishing feature of the sesame seed pod, which bursts open when it reaches maturity.
Uses and nutrition
Sesame is grown primarily for its oil-rich seeds, which come in a variety of colours, from cream-white to charcoal-black. The small sesame seed is used whole in cooking for its rich nutty flavour, although it is said that such heating damages their healthful poly-unsaturated fats, and also yields sesame oil. Sesame seeds are sometimes added to breads and the tops of hamburger buns. Sesame seeds may be baked into crackers, often in the form of sticks.
Ground and processed, the seeds can also be used in sweet confections and also for porridge (koko) in Ghana.
In Greece the seeds are used in cakes, while in Togo, the seeds are a main soup ingredient. The seeds are also used on bread and then eaten in Sicily. About one-third of the sesame crop imported by the United States from Mexico is purchased by McDonald's for their sesame seed buns.
Japanese cuisine uses sesame seeds in many ways. One is to make a meal called goma-dofu, which is made from sesame paste and starch. Whole seeds are found in many salads and baked snacks as well. Chefs in Japanese restaurants blend sesame and cottonseed oil for deep-frying. Tan and black sesame seed varieties are roasted and used for making the flavouring gomashio, a Japanese delicacy.
East Asian cuisine, like Chinese cuisine, uses sesame seeds and oil in some dishes, such as the dim sum dish, sesame seed balls and the Vietnamese special food called bánh rán.
Sesame flavour (through oil and roasted or raw seeds) is also very popular in Korean cuisine, used to season meat and vegetables.
Sesame oil was the preferred cooking oil in India until the advent of groundnut (peanut) oil.
The seeds are rich in manganese, copper, and calcium (90 mg per tablespoon for unhulled seeds, 10 mg for hulled), and contain Vitamin B1 (thiamine) and Vitamin E (tocopherol). They contain powerful antioxidants called lignans, which are also anti-carcinogenic, and, therefore, prevents cancer. They also contain phytosterols, which block cholesterol production. Sesame contains one lignan which is unique to it called sesamin.
It will interest you to know that the nutrients of sesame seeds are better absorbed if they are ground or pulverised before consumption. That might explain why some Ghanaian sellers have started to sell the powered form.
The above benefits of sesame seem to have been known from historical times. Apparently the women of ancient Babylon would eat halva, a mixture of honey and sesame seeds which is now known as Sesameal, to prolong their youth and beauty, while Roman soldiers ate sesame seeds and honey to give them strength and energy.
In general, the paler varieties of sesame seem to be more valued in the West and Middle East, while the black varieties are prized in the Far East.
Sesame oil is used for massage and health treatments of the body in the ancient Indian ayurvedic system with the types of massage called abhyanga and shirodhara.
Sesame output in 2005
Sesame is grown in many parts of the world on over 5 million acres of land. The biggest area of production is currently believed to be India, but the crop is also grown in China, Burma, Sudan and Ethiopia. US commercial production reportedly began in the 1950s. Areas in the U.S., primarily in Texas and south-western states, has ranged from 10,000 to 20,000 acres in recent years; however, the U.S. imports more sesame than it grows.
Now the little research I made revealed that the plants are abound in the northern part of the country.
Whiles some of us are currently learning to make use of the seeds, I was told that they had been in use in the three northern regions for ages to treat variety of ailments including insomnia (sleeplessness), bodily pains and poor eyesight.
In addition to using the sesame seeds for our health benefits, can we also look at producing them in large quantities, since there is a market in the U.S and other parts of the world for them.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

MDAs set up internal audit units

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah Page 47
A NUMBER of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) which have hitherto been found wanting, are hurrying to put in place internal auditing mechanisms in an apparent move to avoid queries from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) at future public hearings.
Ten of such public institutions have approached the Internal Audit Agency (IAA) within the past few weeks to help them establish Audit Report Implementation Committees (ARIC) with many more making enquiries on the subject.
The Director-General of the IAA, Mr Patrick Nomo told the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday that since the law for the establishment of the ARICs came into effect in 2000, only 31 MDAs had put in place some form of committees even though some of them needed to be strengthened, since they were not up to accepted standards.
He said the agency was, therefore, coming out with a new set of guidelines to help the country benefit from the committees.
Mr Nomo said Section 30 of the Audit Service Act 584 of 2000 required all MDAs, metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) to set up Audit Report Implementation Committees (ARICs) to ensure the implementation of audit reports.
In addition, he said Section 16 (8) of the IAA Act 658 of 2003 also reiterated the need for all MDAs and MMDAs to comply with Section 30 (1) of Act 584 and establish ARICs and pointed out that in addition to these, the framework for professional practice of internal auditing issued by the Institute of Internal Auditors also required organisations to have not just audit committees, but effective ones.
Mr Nomo said many public institutions had failed to comply with the law either because of lack of knowledge or failure to appreciate the importance of the committees, hence the embarrassing disclosures at the PAC proceedings.
He pointed out that although some embezzlements might have gone on in some of the institutions which appeared before the PAC, about 50 per cent of the financial misappropriation reported at the hearing could be due to poor and unprofessional financial records keeping.
He said the ARIC was a corporate tool and a high-level committee composed of independent members who had the responsibility to ensure that internal audit units were functioning effectively and also recommendations made in audit reports were appropriately implemented to ensure efficient and effective utilisation of public funds in line with the Public Financial Reform Programmes (PUFMARP).
For an effective performance of duty, Mr Nomo pointed out that, “an ARIC shall have unrestricted access to all information, documents, personnel and adequate resources in order to fulfil its responsibilities”.
On the issue of existence of Internal Audit Units in public institutions, he said as at the end of 2005, only 53 out of about 120 MDAs and MMDAs his outfit visited, had the units in place and explained that there were more than 200 public institutions in the country which must all have internal audit units.
Mr Nomo reiterated an earlier statement made by the Controller and Accountant General, Mr Christian T. Sottie, that it was better to prevent fraud than to wait and detect it after it had occurred, since it was difficult to retrieve such stolen funds.
He, therefore, asked for the strengthening of institutions put in place to help prevent fraud to enable them to perform effectively to protect public funds.
He said it had come out that many of the institutions did not have the appropriate measures in place to help prevent wrongdoing because of lack of knowledge, and announced that his outfit would organise an Internal Audit Forum on November 20, on the theme, “Mitigating Corporate Fraud, Abuse and Waste: The Role of the Internal Auditor”.

Govt Pumps in More Money for Housing

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah ( Nov. 7, 2007) Spread Lead
MORE than ¢300 billion has been committed to the provision of various housing units over the past two years to address the acute housing problems in the country.
Providing details of the projects at his turn at the Meet-the-Press series in Accra yesterday , the Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Alhaji Abubakar Saddique Boniface, said construction works were progressing steadily at six sites.
He named the sites as Borteyman and Kpone in the Greater Accra Region, Asokore-Mampong in Ashanti Region, Koforidua in the Eastern Region, Tamale in the Northern Region and Wa in the Upper West Region.
Alhaji Boniface also mentioned ongoing projects being undertaken by the Tema Development Corporation (TDC) and the State Housing Company (SHC) and said the SHC had, since its establishment in 1956, put up 31,220 housing units and currently working on a new housing estate on a 234-acre land near Buduburam in the Central Region known as the Winneba Road Estate.
He said the government, as part of its drive to provide adequate housing for Ghanaians, launched the Affordable Housing programme in 2005, with a plan to build 100,000 housing units for the middle and low-income groups through public-private partnership (PPP).
He pointed out that the project would eventually be extended to the rest of the regions.
Various data on housing in the country show a backlog of about 500,000 housing units while supply figures are between 25,000 and 40,000 units per annum, as against an annual requirement of 100,000 units.
To instil professionalism and discipline into the design and construction of buildings and also introduce a code of ethics to guide the behaviour of all actors in the engineering field, he said his ministry had submitted a draft Engineering Council bill to Cabinet for consideration and approval.
The minister said the current nation-wide urban water production was about 127 trillion gallons per day as against a demand of about 231 trillion gallons per day and announced that with the expansion works going on, the volume was expected to increase to about 237????? trillion by the end of this year.
“By 2008, urban water supply coverage is expected to increase to about 58 per cent due to various expansion works which are either in progress or about to commence,” he said.
He stated that specific water projects which were currently at various stages of completion included the Accra East-West interconnection, the Kwanyako , the Cape Coast , the Koforidua , Tamale and the Baifikrom Water Supply projects.
Touching on the Kpong II Water Supply Expansion project, he pointed out that the project was expected to help end the water shortage in the Accra/Tema metropolis, since it would involve the production of additional 40 million gallons of water per day.
Alhaji Boniface added, among other things, that the Tamale Water Supply project, which was estimated at 45 million euros and started on August 18, 2006, was expected to complete in 24 months to help solve the perennial water problems confronting the Tamale metropolis and its environs.
He also mentioned the various investors who were working on the Wa, Yendi, Damango, Sunyani, Kumasi, Sogakope-Lome, Kwahu Ridge and Begoro, Navrongo, Techiman and Konongo water supply projects.
On rural water, the Minister said the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) had remained focused on its drive to ensure the provision of potable water for various rural communities, adding that the percentage coverage for rural water increased from 51.7 per cent in 2005 to 52.86 per cent in 2006. He said about 80 per cent of the rural population would be covered by 2015.
In an answer to a question, Alhaji Boniface said residents of Keta whose houses were demolished to pave the way for construction of the Keta sea defence and had registered with the ministry, would be taken care of.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Kosmos pays withholding tax

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
KOSMOS Energy Ghana has paid a total of $340,000 as withholding tax to the government.
The amount covers the five per cent monthly tax deductions from their sub-contractors and tax payment to the government.
The Country Director of Kosmos, Mr George Owusu, presented the cheque to the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu who in turn handed it over to the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Maj Seth Ablor Sowah Quarcoo.
The Finance Minister appealed to corporate bodies operating in Ghana to be responsible to their tax obligations since the country depended so much on domestic revenue.
Mr Baah-Wiredu said it was the responsibility of the private sector to create jobs as it was the government’s role to create a conducive environment.
For his part, Mr Owusu said although the company had not yet started main operations and was not generating any income, it found it expedient to honour its tax obligations.
He assured Ghanaians that the company would not waste time on its activities to produce crude oil for the country and urged Ghanaians to get prepared to work hard.
Kosmos Energy Ghana, an affiliate of Kosmos Energy International, signed a petroleum agreement in 2004 covering the West Cape Three Points Block offshore in the Gulf of Guinea’s Tano Basin.
The West Cape Three Points Block comprises 1,957 square kilometres (483,600 acres) in water depths ranging from 50 meters to 1,800 meters (approximately 165 feet to 5,900 feet).
The company, which announced its discovery of oil in commercial quantities early this year, is teaming up with the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) in its exploration works.

Food Poisoning, Mind what you eat

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah.
On September 28, 2007, I found myself listening to a conversation between two young mothers in a hospital in Accra. One of them was hysterically pouring curses on some unknown persons whom she claimed had wanted to kill her child. Immediately I heard the word “kill”, I craned my neck to hear more so I could do a story. In fact, I made up my mind to abandon my scheduled assignment for the day and accompany them to the police.
In my desire to get the whole story, I approached them and with signs of genuine concern on my face, quietly asked who had wanted to kill her child.
“My sister, ask again ooh ooh, my seven year old child came from school vomiting and passing stool which continued till this morning. When I sent her to the hospital this morning, the doctor said she was suffering from food poisoning. My sister can you imagine someone trying to kill my only child by putting poison in her food”.
If it is was not for the fact that food poisoning could be fatal and also for the pain I saw on the woman’s face I would have laughed but I could not do that because although what she thought was not the case, the life of her child was in danger all the same. For about 10 minutes that we waited at the pharmacy department for our individual medication, I was able to explain the possible causes of her child illness, which to some extent relieved her from the fear that someone hated her so much as to poison her child.
What Is Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning, according to medical journals comes from eating foods that contain germs like bad bacteria or toxins, which are poisonous substances and can affect one’s health.
It is common to find bacteria are all around us especially in environments such as what prevails in Ghanaian communities. That is the more reason why cases of food poisoning are common.
Bacteria are all around us, including in food, and more especially leftover foods.
Germs that cause food poisoning could be found in animal products, raw foods, rotten foodstuffs and unwashed vegetables. The most likely source is food from animals, like meat, poultry (such as chicken), eggs, milk, and shellfish such as shrimps.
Some of the most common bacteria are: Salmonella, Listeria, Campylobacter and E. coli
If a person has food poisoning, he or she might have an upset stomach and nausea, have stomach cramps, diarrhoea which may contain blood and fever.
Sometimes feeling sick from food poisoning shows up within hours of eating the bad food. At other times, someone may not feel sick until several days later.
Sometimes it becomes hard to tell if you have food poisoning or something else. You might do a little detective work and see who else gets the same sickness. Did they eat the same thing you did? If only people who ate that food got sick, food poisoning could be the problem.
It is one thing to get food poisoning from something in your fridge, but imagine how many people could get sick if a restaurant served food that had these bad germs in it. When that happens, people from the health department might get involved and try to figure out what happened and make sure everyone gets the medical care they need.
To avoid food poisoning, people need to prepare, cook, and store foods properly and that is where women come in since they normally prepare.
Many things can be done to prevent food poisoning from happening. These precautions should be taken at every stage; from preparation to cooking to storing leftovers. A lot of this responsibility falls on mothers but other members of the family can help since you all need to fight diseases.
One of the best ways is to wash your hands if you are helping to prepare foods so germs from your hands do not get on the food. Hand washing also be done after so you do not pass along germs from the food to yourself or anyone else.
Other steps you can take to keep your food safe include: Wash fruits and vegetables well before eating them, only eat foods that are properly cooked; look at what you are eating and smell it, too. If something looks or smells different than normal, do not eat or drink it.
Another point is that if you are going to eat leftovers, heat them up because by heating them, you can kill bacteria that grew while it was in the fridge.
It is also important to check the dates on products we buy from shops since lots of packaged foods have expiration dates. Do not eat or serve your family with food after the expiration date. IT is also important to cover and refrigerate food right away if it must be done since food which are left to sit at room temperature, could be contaminated with bacteria. By putting food in the fridge, you re putting the chill on those bad germs!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Task force proposes ranking of contractors.

November 3, 2007

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
A FIVE-MEMBER task force instituted by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning has proposed a rating and ranking mechanism, as well as an award scheme for contractors. This is expected to encourage the various category of contractors to strive for excellence.
The proposal, when accepted, is intended to effectively improve the construction industry and help entities in their evaluation process to select the best contractors for their works.
The quality of performance and negative perception of Ghanaian contractors and consultants are said to be of concern to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning hence the setting up of the task force.
The five-member task force, which was set up on October 10, 2007 to study the situation and make recommendations for improvement, submitted its findings to the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, in Accra on Wednesday.
In addition to the rating, ranking and the institution of the award schemes, the team also recommended improvement on the overall performance in the construction industry.
The report stated that the implementation of the recommendations would immensely improve the construction industry in the country and increase the number of projects to be implemented through savings.
It pointed out that the exercise would subsequently remove the negative perceptions of local contractors and enable them to compete with their foreign counterparts.
A civil engineer and Chairman of the Public Procurement Board, Mr Kwesi Abbey Sam, is the chairman of the task force, with Dr Charity Akotia, a psychologist; Mr Eric Appiah, a quantity surveyor; Mrs Sylvia Asare, a civil engineer, and Mrs Rosemary Mills-Tettey, an architect, as members.
Receiving the report, Mr Baah-Wiredu said now that Ghana was on the international market, there was the need for excellent performance to convince those who had invested in the economy to be rest assured.
He said the issue of quality work featured prominently during the discussion on the sovereign bond and urged individuals and groups in the construction industry to do their best in all that they did.
He hinted that the proposals made by the task force would be studied and captured in next year’s budget, which would be read by the middle of this month to send the signal to investors that they had not invested in vain.
Mr Baah-Wiredu stressed that in addition to the awards to be presented, names of contractors who performed but did not win any awards would be published to motivate them and encourage others to strive higher.
For his part, Mr Abbey Sam said in the performance of its duty, the task force identified problems in six areas which adversely affected the construction industry in Ghana and mentioned classification of contractors, standards and specification, contract procedures, contractors’ establishment, resource constraints and late or non payments for works.
He said the team had, therefore, recommended various measures to improve all aspects of the industry.

Justice Badoo committee presents findings.

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE Justice Baddoo committee tasked to investigate reported cases of extortion of money and other operational irregularities at the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEP) yesterday presented it findings with a call on the government to abolish the central auction team of CEPS.
“The committee found as a fact that auction sales by the auction team were a charade, a pretence, and a huge joke. This practice clearly indicates corruption, as well as abuse of auction process, which ultimately results in huge loses of revenue to the country,” it stated.
The committee has, therefore, recommended the replacement of the auction team with an ad-hoc committee to be set up by the Commissioner of CEPS with a mandate to conduct the auction for specific period as and when goods were gazetted for auction.
A summary of the report of the committee was presented to the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, in Accra yesterday, by the Chairman of the Committee, Mr Justice Samuel Glenn Baddoo.
The report indicated that a couple of officers had been found culpable and the committee had, therefore, recommended that they face disciplinary action according to the service conditions of CEPS.
The committee went further to recommend that there should be measures to ensure that rules governing auction sale were enforced, especially the penalty imposed on whoever came out as the highest bidder but refused to purchase the goods later on.
In another vein the committee said evidence brought before it suggested that many vehicles imported into the country were registered without the appropriate duty and taxes paid on them, adding that about 13,000 vehicles had been registered with fake documents as at the moment.
The report also stated the committee had, therefore, recommended what was termed a “search unit” at the CEPS head office just as pertained at the Lands Commission Secretariat to enable the general public to make the necessary search to find out if the relevant duty and taxes on imported vehicles had been paid.
That, according to the committee, would enable purchasers of vehicles to ascertain whether they were buying genuine vehicles or not.
It, however, pointed out that the Driver, Vehicle and Licensing Authority (DVLA) had set up a task force to seize all unaccustomed vehicles and in pursuit of that exercise, it had seized 103 vehicles which had been sent to CEPS for the appropriate action to be taken.
It pointed out that the DVLA should be connected to the computer network at the port, (GCNet) in all its branches so that before any imported vehicle was registered its officers could ascertain whether appropriate duty had been paid, adding that the Revenue Agencies Governing Board (RAGB) should be responsible for the installation of the GCNet at the offices of the DVLA.
It suggested close collaboration of the CEPS and DVLA to effectively track down uncustomed goods.
As a way of recommendation, the committee pointed out that the DVLA team and another task force headed by Mr Kwabena Ahenkorah of the RAGB should be strengthened and motivated to carry out their duties effectively.
The committee touched on thousands of mobiles phones and accessories smuggled into the country especially through the airport; the effrontery with which some CEPS officials openly ask for money from clients; the use of the state warehouse for long periods by importers and thus delaying payment of revenue to the state.
Others are complainants who refused to appear before the committee, and also the abuse of the “Gold Card” where about 144 have been offered the facility which allowed large tax compliant companies to clear their goods expeditiously from the ports without going through all the hassle accompanying normal clearance from the ports.
The committee also expressed displeasure at the negative image of CEPS in the eyes of Ghanaians and recommended that measures should be taken to protect the honest officials who did not indulge in wrongdoing but worked hard in the interest of the country.
Receiving the report, Mr Baah-Wiredu commended the committee members for a good work done and pledged that the government would take the necessary action to get the right things done.
He said after the government had studied the report and come out with a white paper on it, any action that would be proscribed would cover all the revenue collecting agencies, as well as the utility companies, adding that the country needed revenue to develop and should, therefore, not allow anyone to misappropriate state funds.
The Chairman of the RAGB, Nana Kwabena Osei; the Executive Secretary of the RAGB, Mr Harry Owusu; the Commissioner of CEPS, Mr Emmanuel Doku; the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Major Ablor Sowa Quarcoo; and the Commissioner of the Value Added Tax Service (VATS), Mr Anthony Menyilla, took turns to commend the committee and pledged to instil discipline in their various institutions.