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.