Monday, January 28, 2008

Implement Traditional Medicine Practice Act-Quarm (Page 44)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (January 28, 2008)
A FORMER head of the Traditional Medicine Directorate of the Ministry of Health (MoH), Osofo Kwasi Dankwa Quarm, has called on the government and the MoH, to implement the Traditional Medicine Practice Act 575 of 2000, for efficient and safe traditional medicine practice in the country.
Osofo Quarm, who is currently the Executive Secretary of the Ghana Ethno-Medical Foundation, said it was high time the Act, which received Presidential assent on February 23, 2000, was implemented to serve its intended purpose.
The Ghana Ethno-Medical Foundation is a multi-sectoral agency comprising scientists, researchers, traditional medical practitioners, plant collectors and sellers and forest sector agencies.
It has the objective of ensuring growth and development in the herbal/ traditional medicine practice in Ghana.
The foundation also seeks to ensure that patients receive the best of services, practitioners and manufacturers give their best services and products are duly investigated and proven by scientists and researchers before use.
Osofo Quarm told the Daily Graphic in Accra that the Traditional Medicine Practice Act 575 was supposed to establish a Council “to regulate the practice of traditional medicine, to register practitioners and license practices and to regulate the preparation and sale of herbal medicines and to provide for related matters”.
In a statement issued on behalf of the Foundation, the Executive Secretary said it was unfortunate that such an important law should be shelved for such a long time, adding that about 70 per cent of Ghanaians depended on traditional medicine.
He stressed that since many people, especially the rural dwellers, relied on traditional medicine, it was important that the right steps were taken to protect them from quacks.
He said the vision of the foundation was to have traditional medicine practice as a formidable and credible force in medical care that effectively complemented orthodox and other forms of therapies in Ghana for provision of quality and affordable health care for all Ghanaians.
Osofo Quarm hinted that members of the foundation would continue with their advocate until the law was implemented.
"The Foundation demands that all stakeholders should act to boost the trust and confidence of the public in traditional medicine to ensure the existence of a viable industry with safe, effective and affordable products and services," he stressed.
In a related development, the Ghana Federation of Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association (GHAFTRAM) pledged to co-operate with the MoH and make sure that its members were registered by the Traditional Medicine Practice Secretariat in accordance with the Traditional Medicine Practice Act (Act 575).
In a New Year message, the President of GHAFTRAM, Agya Kwaku Appiah, commended the Minister of Health, Major Courage Quashigah (retd), on behalf of the federation, for showing immense interest in the promotion of traditional medicine and its practice.
He cited an instance last year when the minister facilitated the travel of the General Secretary of the federation to China on a three-month tour to learn about traditional medicine in that country.
Agya Appiah, however, observed that there were some challenges that the federation needed to surmount. These included the registration of more members for the purposes of identification and the payment of retention fees by members.

Stop Misuse of Govt Funds- Sottie (Page 38)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (January 28, 2008)
THE Controller and Accountant-General, Mr Christian Tetteh Sottie, has warned government employees who misappropriate government funds to desist from that practice or face administrative and legal actions.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra, Mr Sottie said those who handled government funds should know that the funds belonged to the whole nation and so they should not handle it anyhow to the detriment of Ghanaians.
“We should all contribute our quota to make the economy more stable,” he stressed.
Touching on the activities lined up by the Controller and Accountant General’s Department (CAGD) for the year, the controller said the department had put in place measures to further improve its performance in the years ahead, adding that in that direction the CAGD had begun a programme to visit each region to interact with pensioners and workers to know at first-hand the problems associated with their salaries, wages and related allowances, saying that it was better to offer education, since sometimes people acted out of ignorance.
Mr Sottie pointed out that the first of such interactions took place in Suhum in the Eastern Region on Tuesday where a large number of pensioners had the opportunity to ask questions.
He said notable among the questions were why their pension payments had not been adjusted upwards and also the issue of financial demands on the part of officials who worked on the payments.
He explained that a process had begun to adjust the allowances of all pensioners nation-wide and stressed that the payments were being adjusted as and when the personnel received the necessary inputs from the districts.
On bribery, he advised that persons who fell victim to such activities should be bold to expose those involved, else it would be difficult for the authorities to know and punish them.
He announced that there were also plans this year to restructure the treasury functions for efficiency and also make payments less tedious and arduous.
Mr Sottie, in addition, gave assurance of a better payment system this year, since many of the problems with the computer software had been rectified.
“We hope to pay workers on a timely basis and also pay the right amounts due them,” he pointed out.
He also urged ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to provide the needed human resource training programmes for especially their accounting staff to improve upon their performance.

3-Tier pension Scheme in March (page 3)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (January 26, 2008)
A new pensions law which will cater for the creation of a new contributory three-tier pension system to replace the existing parallel pension schemes is expected to come into force by the end of March this year.
The proposed three-tier scheme consists of a mandatory basic national social security scheme responsible for monthly pensions only. The second scheme is a mandatory, privately managed occupational or work-based scheme to pay lump sums, while the third is a voluntary provident fund and personal pension scheme which can cater for between 80 and 85 per cent of Ghanaian workers in the informal sector and others who want to contribute, in addition to the first two schemes.
Ghana is currently operating two major public pension schemes, which are the Pensions Ordinance No. 40 (CAP 30) of 1950 and the Social Security Act (PNDC Law 247) of 1991.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in Accra, the Project Consultant of the Pension Reform Implementation Committee, Mr Daniel Aidoo Mensah, said the National Pension Reform Bill, which could not be passed by the end of 2007, as had been expected, was before Cabinet, awaiting parliamentary deliberations and approval, in accordance with the recommendations made by a nine-member Presidential Commission on Pensions led by Mr T.A. Bediako, a retired educationist.
The commission, which was appointed by President J.A. Kufuor in July 2004, submitted its final report in March 2006 and its recommendations were approved by a government White Paper issued in July 2006.
In October 2006, the President again appointed a Pension Reform Implementation Committee, also headed by Mr Bediako, to implement the recommendations made by the Presidential Commission on Pensions. The committee came out with the National Pension Reform Bill in 2007.
Touching on the bill, Mr Mensah said it catered for the establishment of an independent National Pensions Regulatory Authority to regulate, supervise and monitor both public and private pension schemes.
He said the authority would also advise the government on overall pension matters in Ghana and approve, regulate, supervise and monitor trustees, pension fund managers, custodians and other institutions relating to pension matters.
He said there were provisions under the bill for all workers currently on the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) and who were below 55 years to automatically join the new scheme.
He explained that a committee would be set up to review the case of contributors who were above 55 years.
Mr Mensah pointed out that the new scheme would be an improvement on the existing Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) scheme, as well as the CAP 30.
He pointed out that as part of its functions, the committee was currently assisting in the restructuring of SSNIT for it to fit into the new pension scheme to focus on its responsibility of managing the first tier, which involved the basic national social security scheme mandatory for all formal sector workers.
The restructuring of SSNIT, Mr Mensah noted, would involve an overhaul of the governance, management and administrative structure of the trust and also a review of the law governing it.
“The new SSNIT will have a board of trustees, instead of a board of directors,” he stated.
Making a point to support his assertion that the proposed scheme would be better than the existing ones, Mr Mensah said the period for one to qualify for pension under the new scheme would be reduced from 20 to 15 contributing years and survivors’ benefit period increased from 12 to 15 years.
Under the second-tier, which involved occupational pension scheme, the project consultant said it might allow assignment for a mortgage for a member to acquire a primary residence, adding that when approved, one could use his or her contribution for a mortgage.
On the third-tier, Mr Mensah explained that it provided for individuals within the private sector and public sector workers who wanted to make voluntary contributions to enhance their pension benefits beyond the mandatory second- tier scheme and any provident fund scheme sponsored by their employers.
He said recommendations had been made to phase out the CAP 30 scheme which was not sustainable, and for that matter there were not going to be any new entrants.
He further explained that the bill had made transitional arrangements to enable the Controller and Accountant- General’s Department to continue to pay CAP 30 beneficiaries their benefits, while it lasted, and pointed out that there was an option for public servants presently under that scheme to join the new scheme.
Programmes which the committee has lined up for 2008 include public education and training on the new pension law, facilitating the implementation of the new law, particularly the second and third-tier privately-managed schemes and special orientation for ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) and other statutory bodies on their role in the pension reform.
Others include the establishment of administrative structures of the National Pensions Regulatory Atuhority, the completion of the restructuring of the CAP 30 scheme, continuation of the supervison of the restructuring of SSNIT, among other activities.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Disaster Management Put To Test- At Ohene Djan (back page)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (January 16, 2008)
THE Accra Venue Subcommittee for Ghana 2008 yesterday organised a simulation exercise in preparation for any eventuality during the tournament at the Ohene Djan Stadium.
Made up of security and health personnel together with volunteers from the Saint John Ambulance and the Red Cross Society of Ghana, the group put into practice how they could prevent and manage disaster should any occur at the stadium.
There are plans for similar exercises to take place in the three other stadia designated for the tournament.
Present were the Minister of Health, Major Courage Quashigah (retd), a large number of directors from the ministry and the Ghana Health Service (GHS), senior officers from the Ghana Armed Forces, the Ghana Police Service and the Ghana Fire Service, officials from the Red Society of Ghana and the Saint John Ambulance, journalists, volunteers and spectators mostly in Ghana 2008 T-shirts and caps.
A large number of plain-clothes police officers were spotted identifying areas where they would cover during matches.
A mock match between Ghana and Benin was staged which resulted in riot with a lot of casualties. Ghana scored two goals as against a lone goal by Benin. Major Quashigah took the ceremonial kick-off.
There was “jama” songs as the supporters tried hard to cheer players of the two teams just as it happens at football matches. The teams were made of both men and women mixed in each team.
Before the mock match, a group of young volunteers mobilised purposely to help during the event were briefed by Dr Ahmed Mohammed, the Director of the National Ambulance Service, and some senior nursing officers as to how to go about things.
For easy movement and effectiveness, both the security personnel mainly from the Ghana Police Service and the health personnel were divided into groups to cover the three sections of the stadium. A group was also assigned to the VIP stand.
The teams were briefed as to how to identify injuries and some cut-out cards in red, yellow, green and black, according to the degree of injuries one was suffering were also shown to the health personnel to be used in separating the injured for effective treatment.
The red was for the severely injured, yellow for the moderately injured, green for mild injuries and the black for the dead.
To enable the group to have a feel of what could happen and how to handle them, a stage-managed riot occurred. That was during the game between the two teams (Ghana and Benin) turned into a free-for-all fight on the playing field with players attacking each other.
With “borrowed supporters” watching from afar, they also began arguing among themselves, which later turned into a large-scale fight which brought about a number of casualties. Volunteers who feigned injured were seen with red paints on various parts of their bodies indicating where the injuries occurred.
As the police tried to stop the fight with some arrests, the health personnel and the various first aid groups rushed to the various spots to assist the injured.
Some injuries which health personnel anticipate occurring in case of such a large-scale fight at the stadium are broken limbs, facial fractures, wounds with profuse bleeding and bleeding from aborted pregnancy.
Others are ear bleeding, nose bleeding, high blood pressure with no medical record, general bodily pains, shortness of breath, facial burns, multiple facial injuries, difficulty in breathing and unconsciousness and semi-consciousness, among others.
There was also a mock fire outbreak where personnel of the Ghana Fire Service quickly moved into action with fire engines and chemicals to bring it under control.
The Commander of the Motor Traffic and Transport Unit (MTTU), Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Mr Julius Avorgah, issued out instructions to both the spectators and the security personnel from the communication room at the stadium to put the situation under control.
As the exercise took place, it was observed that the security personnel were slow to respond.
Enquiries made by the Daily Graphic indicated that an alarm made to sound during such incidents failed to trigger when it was pressed because it had not been completely fixed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Assembly builds educational infrastucture for youth (page 11)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah, Agona Nkwanta (January 14, 2008)

THE Ahanta West District Assembly in the Western Region is putting up educational and recreational infrastructure for the benefit of the youth in the area.
The Assembly has already completed a community library with educational materials to help boost the reading habits of the inhabitants of the district. The library can accommodate 100 people.
In an interview with the District Chief Executive (DCE), Mr Kwesi Biney, at Agona Nkwanta, he said the assembly had budgeted for GH¢95,000 for additional infrastructure to enhance education and physical exercise in the community.
He said with sponsorship from the Ministry of Communications, the Assembly was presently putting up an Information Communication Technology (ICT) centre which was about 70 per cent complete.
He said there were plans to construct a playing ground to house table tennis court and children’s park where games for children would be introduced.
Mr Biney pointed out that there was the need for people to develop their minds and their bodies, adding that provision of such materials were good for healthy living which imparted on national development.
He pointed out that the reason behind those projects was, among other things, to take the youth out of unproductive ventures such as drinking and smoking but rather introduce them to reading, ICT and physical exercise to improve on their minds and bodies.
The DCE said the projects were scheduled to be completed by the first quarter of the year and appealed to contractors working on them to work to meet the deadline.

JICA Official on Three-Day Visit (Page 43)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (January 14, 2008)
THE Senior Vice-President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Mr Kenzo Oshima, has paid a three-day working visit to Ghana.
The visit was to enable him to discuss the upcoming Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD) IV with the government of Ghana and also use the opportunity to inspect some completed and ongoing JICA-assisted projects in the country.
The conference (TICAD IV), which is scheduled for May 2008, is on the theme, “Towards A Vibrant Africa: Continent of Hope and Opportunity”.
A statement made available to journalists from JICA office in Ghana indicated that President J.A. Kufuor, who is chairman of the African Union (AU), had been invited to attend.
As part of the three-day visit, Mr Oshima, together with some officials from the Japanese Embassy in Ghana, paid a courtesy call on the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, at the ministry. The group later had bilateral talks behind closed doors.
During the courtesy call, Mr Oshima said one other reason why he visited Ghana was to get the opportunity to meet the former United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan, and discuss with him issues concerning activities of the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) which Mr Annan is the chairman.
The Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa, which was established in 2007 with an initial US$150 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, seeks to help millions of small-scale farmers and their families across Africa to lift themselves and their families out of poverty and hunger through sustainable increases in farm productivity and incomes.
Mr Oshima stressed that JICA would continue to support Ghana’s economic growth and its quest towards attainment of self-reliance and sustainable economic development.
He pointed out that the agency had the desire to also assist Ghana to achieve its development agenda of poverty reduction, attaining a middle-income status and meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
For his part, Mr Baah-Wiredu said Japan remained one of the most important bilateral development partners of Ghana even after its suspension of Yen loans to Ghana and pointed out that most of Japan’s technical assistance programmes and projects to Ghana was routed through JICA.
Giving a historical background to Ghana’s relationship with Japan, the Finance Minister said it was that mutual understanding and friendship that led to the establishment by Japan of the first medical research institute for Ghana — the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) — in 1979.
He stressed that “ever since, the amount of Japanese assistance to Ghana in the form of grant aid and technical assistance has tremendously increased both in value and scope”.
He said that Japanese grant aid to Ghana for the construction of roads and bridges, rural electrification and other economic and social infrastructure also topped US$14 million in March, 2006.
Mr Baah-Wiredu touched on Japan’s immense contribution to Ghana’s development through Japanese Overseas Co-operation Volunteers (JOCV) dispatched to Ghana as teachers and also Japan’s assistance through Ghana’s human resource development, poverty reduction, accelerated rural development, promotion of industrial development, debt cancellation and new grant aid facility, among others.
He took the opportunity to appeal to the Japanese government to critically consider lifting the ban of Yen loans to Ghana as soon as possible and also expedite action in giving approval for the utilisation of the aggregated balance of around US$12.4 million in the Counter Value Fund for qualified development projects in Ghana.
At the meeting was the Chief Director of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Nana Juaben-Serebour Boateng; the Japanese Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Masamichi Ishikawa; the Resident Representative of JICA in Ghana, Mr Hiroshi Murakami; and other officials from both JICA and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.

New Pay For Teachers-GH¢66m Arrears to be Settled (Front Page)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (January 12, 2008)
THE Ministry of Finance has approved a new salary structure for teachers, with retrospective effect from January 1, 2007.
Following the approval, a total of GH¢66 million will be paid in arrears to about 322,000 teachers nation-wide.
The decision follows the agreement reached between the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) and the government during the 2007 salary negotiations which touched on distortions and wrong job placement and the need to design a new salary structure for teachers of the Ghana Education Service (GES).
A letter on the issue, dated January 4, 2008 and signed by the Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Professor George Gyan-Baffour, to the Controller and Accountant General directed that the arrears from January to December 2007, should be paid at the end of this month.
The arrears are the remaining 10 per cent out of a 100 per cent arrears which resulted from some corrections made on teachers’ pay structure, payment of which was started by the government in 2007.
Information gathered at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning indicated that the decision for the new salary structure for teachers was the outcome of a final cleaning-up exercise embarked on to correct distortions and wrong job placements found on the salary structure of the Ghana Universal Salary Structure (GUSS) which negatively affected teachers.
The Ministry’s letter, headed, “Implementation of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) and the Government”, stated that staff of the GES who left the service from January 1 to December 31, 2007, should also benefit from the new directive.
“Please note that the computation of gratuity, pension and social security of all teachers who left the GES during the period January 1 to December 31, 2007 should be based on the attached salary structure referred to in Paragraph 1 above,” it stated.
The said new salary structure, headed, “Appendix A — Salary Structure for Teachers of the Ghana Education Service, Effective: January 1, 2007”, indicated salaries per annum due each category of teachers from Level One to 22 and also from Step One to 15.
The letter was copied to a number of stakeholders, including the Minister of Education, Science and Sports, the Director-General of the GES and the General Secretary of GNAT.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra on Tuesday, the Director of Policy Analysis of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwabena Oku-Afari, said the decision to implement the new salary structure came out of an MoU signed between the government and the GES, on one hand, and GNAT, on the other, in 2007.
He said that was after a series of negotiations between the two groups to find solutions to the distortions in the salaries of teachers and also their job placement, as compared to other government employees with similar qualifications.
He stated that attempts to correct those anomalies resulted in further problems because of the lack of adequate data and correct information on salaries, adding that salary admininstration in the country had always remained a big problem because of the lack of the correct database.
Mr Oku-Afari, however, stated that some achievements had been made in that area and expressed the hope that things would get better.
He expressed the hope that the newly-established Fair Wages and Salaries Commission (FW&SC) would come up with lasting solutions to the issue of salary distortions in the public sector.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

'Ghana will gain a lot as host' (centre page)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (January 10, 2008)
THE Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mrs Oboshie Sai-Cofie, has said that Ghana will gain a lot from the opportunity to host the 26th Africa Cup of Nations (Ghana 2008) and that this already makes the country “the winner of the tournament”.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra, Mrs Sai-Cofie stressed that “Ghanaians should recognise the fact that we have already won in prestige, revenue generation, in showcasing our beautiful country and its people; we have won because of the fact that our children will grow to acknowledge that their country is considered important in the global environment”.
She said there was, therefore, no need for any Ghanaian to feel down-hearted because of one reason or another but rather go all out and feel good because the tournament was taking place in Ghana and nowhere else.
The minister said she was aware that the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of Ghana 2008 was preparing to launch some activities before the start of the tournament but said there was no need for anybody to wait to be organised because there already existed reasons for merrymaking.
The Information Minister advised people to stop complaining that there was no excitement in the air, adding that it was left to individuals and groups to come together to create the needed excitement.
Mrs Sai-Cofie said the government had played its part by providing all the necessary infrastructure for a successful tournament, adding, “It is left to us, as a people, to make the best out of the event.”
The Daily Graphic reported on Saturday, January 5, 2008 that $157.2 million had so far been spent on the rehabilitation and construction of four stadia to host the Ghana 2008 tournament in the country. The amount was said to have exceeded the $152.1 million initially projected by $5.1 million.
The rehabilitated stadia are the Ohene Djan Stadium in Accra and the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi, while the newly- constructed ones are in Tamale and Sekondi.
Mrs Sai-Cofie stated that it was important for each Ghanaian to feel good, for the reason that for the first in our history the whole football world was going to focus on us, and for a good reason too. She, therefore, urged the people to simply allow the excitement to flow from the innermost parts of their hearts.
She suggested that if for nothing at all, individuals and groups should hang national flags on their property and make the right noises in readiness for the tournament.
On the chances of the national team winning the cup, the Information Minister expressed optimism, but added that the issue was not about winning but the need to look at other opportunities that would come along with the tournament. She urged the private sector to take advantage of the event and generate some revenue through the sale of made-in- Ghana goods and traditional food and provide services to earn some income for the period that the tournament would last.
Mrs Sai-Cofie called for maximum support from the media in the area of continuous programmes on the event to create awareness.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Gas Pipeline Ready For Business (Back Page)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah, Takoradi (January 9, 2008)

THE Ghana portion of the West Africa Gas Pipeline (WAGP) project is now ready to receive supplies from the project source in Nigeria.
During a visit by the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, to some of the project sites in the Western Region, it became evident that the delay in the flow of gas through the lines could be traced to the source of the project in Nigeria.
The WAGP is expected to transport natural gas from Nigeria, through Togo and Benin to Ghana, and is expected to provide a more affordable source of energy to the country than crude oil.
Workers on all the three operational sites, namely the WAGP, the Volta River Authority (VRA) and the Takoradi Thermal Plant, which are close to each other at Aboadze near Takoradi, are said to be in readiness to receive the gas from Nigeria.
A tour of the sites showed installation of new equipment with both local and expatriate workers busily moving around with one item or another in readiness for signal from the suppliers in Nigeria.
The West Africa Gas Pipeline (WAGP) project involves the construction of a 680-kilometre transport system designed to carry natural gas from Nigeria to markets in Benin, Togo and Ghana.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Graphic at the project site, the WAGP Company Site Representative in Ghana, Mr Michael Streeting, said the work was 99.9-per cent complete”, adding that the system was ready to receive the gas for transmission to the VRA plant nearby.
He pointed out that technicians at the station were presently running final tests on the system.
Briefing Mr Baah-Wiredu at the Regulatory and Metering Station at Aboadze, Mr Streeting said what was left currently was for Ghana to get in touch with the Nigerian suppliers to expedite action for the right amount of the product to start flowing.
He explained that the pipelines which passed through the ocean travelled over 470??????? kilometres to reach the shores of Ghana.
Visitors to the site, which is secured, go through induction on health and safety measures and are also provided protective gear, which includes boots, goggles and helmet, for safety purposes.
At the VRA plant site, new yellow-looking turbines, which were said to have been laid purposely for the gas supply, were visible.
The plant managers of the VRA and the Takoradi International Company (TICO), operators of the Thermal Plant, said their outfits were also ready to receive the gas for onward transmission to add up to the supply of energy in the country.
The Plant Manager for TICO, Mr George Niako, said the two institutions would need less than one week to make use of the gas when it arrived.
The Plant Manager of the VRA, Mr Richard Badger, reiterated the preparedness of the two institutions, adding that they were ready to open the project but that it would be done after the gas had begun to flow in the right quantity.
The gas project is jointly owned by the Chevron oil company, which has 36.7 per cent equity; Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), 25 per cent; Shell, 18 per cent; the Volta River Authority, 16.3 per cent; Societe Togolaise de Gaz (SoToGaz), two per cent and Societe BenGaz S.A. (SoBeGaz), two per cent.

French Team To Start Feasibility Study On Mini Dams (Centre Page)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah, Ajomoro Ashiem. (January 9, 2008)
A team of consultants from a French consulting engineering firm, Coyner et Bellier, is expected in the country this week to begin feasibility studies for the construction of mini hydro dams on the Pra, Ankobra and Tano rivers in the Central and Western regions.
Coyner et Bellier specialises in the designing, construction and supervision of large infrastructural projects such as hydraulic and hydropower dams.
The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, at the weekend inspected the potential project sites together with Mr William Oppong Bio, the Executive Chairman of Super Care Group, the local representatives of Sinohydro Company of China, and Mr Liu Aisheng, an engineer with the company, who is currently working on the Bui Dam project in the Brong Ahafo Region.
The team visited the site along the River Pra at Assin Awisa in the Twifu Hemang-Lower Denkyira District in the Central Region and Sekyere Heman in the Mpohor Wassa East District in the Western Region.
The team was later joined by the district chief executives (DCEs) for Agona West and Nzema East, Mr Kwesi Biney and Mr Joshua Ellemah, respectively, as well as Ms Katherine Afeko, the Government Spokesperson on Infrastructure, and inspected a site along the River Ankobra at Ajomoro Ashiem in the Nzema East District and the Tano River at Tanoso, near Elubo in the Jomoro District, both in the Western Region.
Mr Aisheng told the Daily Graphic at Agona Nkwanta, the capital of the Agona West District, that a study conducted more than a decade ago indicated that the three proposed mini dams had the potential of supplying about 250 megawatts of electric power.
Mr Baah-Wiredu said the government had begun negotiations with the Chinese government to help in the construction of the dams to supplement the energy needs of the country.
He said it was important for the country to explore all avenues in the area of energy generation to prevent a recurrence of the energy crisis which the country went through last year.
Mr Baah-Wiredu pointed out that the country had not taken the issue of energy generation seriously for some time now, adding that out of the three areas of power generation, transmission and distribution, the country’s interest had for about 20 years only been on transmission and distribution, leaving out power generation.
He pointed out that the construction of the mini dams was mentioned in the 2008 budget statement, as well as the President’s New Year Message, and said the government was serious about the three projects.
The Finance Minister said a team which accompanied him to China to negotiate the Bui Dam Project in 2007 touched on the mini dams, adding that there were indications that the Chinese government would again support the government of Ghana in that direction.
In all the areas that the team visited, the people showed a keen interest in the projects and expressed the hope that the government would expedite action on them to provide employment for the youth.
When the team got to Sekyere Heman around 7.30 p.m., a group of more than 20 people quickly organised themselves with lanterns and torch lights to lead the team to the river bank for the inspection.
At Ajomoro Ashiem, a mini durbar was organised and Mr Baah-Wiredu asked the people not to be discouraged because the future held better prospects for all Ghanaians.
He touched on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), the School Feeding Programme, the Capitation Grant and the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP) as some of the initiatives by the government to help reduce the cost of living, especially for rural dwellers.
The Chief of Ajomoro Ashiem, Nana Akwenzra Acka, assured the government of his preparedness and that of his people to support the construction of the dam on their land.

Finance Minister, Revenue Officials Discuss Auction (page13)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (January 5, 2008)

TOP officials from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, the Revenue Agencies Governing Board (RAGB) and the Customs Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS), held a meeting on Thursday to discuss means to auction hundreds of containers of imported goods left to go bad at the Tema Harbour.
The meeting became necessary after the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, had visited the harbour to inspect at first-hand, an unspecified number of containers, marked for auctioning by CEPS but which had been left to go bad because of legalities.
At the meeting with the Finance Minister were the Executive Secretary of the RAGB, Mr Harry Owusu; the Commissioner of CEPS, Mr Emmanuel Doku; his deputy in charge of Operations, Mr Robert Kwami; the officer in charge of Tema, Assistant Commissioner of CEPS Alhaji Mohammed Malifuz Nasirudeen; the Chairman of the Auction Task Force, Mr Martin Oteng Ababio, and other officials from CEPS and the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA).
An inspection after the meeting of the TOA Yard, where about 201 containers had been kept, showed that some of the containers together with their contents which comprised clothing, electrical appliances and mineral water among other general goods, were going bad due to their exposure to the harsh weather conditions over a long period.
Addressing the officials, Mr Baah-Wiredu said it was unfortunate that so many items which could have fetched the country huge sums of money had been left unsold because officials had to follow bureaucratic procedures.
“There are some items which were here when I visited Tema about four years ago,” he lamented.
He explained that an item marked for auctioning must be sold within what was termed a reserve price and when it failed to attract such a price for a second time, a review of the old price for a new one had to go through a cumbersome procedure, which usually took about a year to complete.
He said in as much as the procedure was good to check fraud, a way should be found to shorten the process for early auctioning of uncleared goods at a time when they were still in good condition.
Mr Baah-Wiredu said if all those items were auctioned as and when they came in, much higher revenue could have been raised and the ports cleared of so many containers.
The Deputy Commissioner in charge of Operations, Mr Robert Kwami, said there had been an earlier discussion on the issue to shorten the procedure of reviewing the reserve prices for early auctioning of items which did not attract buyers at an earlier auction.
He pointed out that there was going to be a computerised system at the port to keep records of prices and all items sold at auctions to prevent fraud.
The Commissioner of CEPS, Mr Doku, said the service would begin a workshop to educate personnel on the computerised system to enable them to keep proper records on auctioned goods.
Mr Harry Owusu of the RAGB said so many items had been left unsold for many years because of the fact that CEPS officials were being cautious, and suggested that a transparent method should be adopted to enable the state to derive the necessary benefits from the auction.
He reiterated that the main objective of the revenue agencies was to maximise profit and called on the staff of CEPS to play their role effectively.
The Chairman of the Auction Task Force, Mr Oteng Ababio, said since the committee started its work on October 23, 2007, it had auctioned 120 containers.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Health Sector Set to Achieve MDGs (page 44)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE health sector will this year move ahead with its objective of achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with the implementation of health intervention programmes throughout the country.
To achieve its objectives, the agenda for the sector for the year will include expansion of the policy of High Impact Rapid Delivery (HIRD) and the Regenerative Health and Nutrition Programme (RHNP) to cover the rest of the country.
This was contained in the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government of Ghana for the 2008 financial year presented to Parliament on November 15, 2007 by the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu.
The HIRD programme has been introduced by the Ministry of Health (MoH) to scale up interventions to help achieve the MDGs. These interventions include sustaining Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI), improving malarial case management, extension of health care and support services for People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and strengthening programme management for guinea worm in the affected areas.
The Northern, Upper East, Upper West and Central regions were introduced to the HIRD programme on pilot basis last year.
The RHNP is to address problems of health risks arising from the changing lifestyles of Ghanaians, which include unhealthy eating habits, lack of physical activity and neglect of basic environmental practices. Presently, 32 districts in all the 10 regions have been introduced to the programme.
To achieve its objectives for the year, an amount of GH¢752,233,368 has been allocated to the Ministry of Health (MoH) in the 2008 budget.
Out of that amount, the government is providing GH¢268,517,036, with the various health facilities contributing GH¢115,070,600 from internally generated fund.
An amount of GH¢126,731,219 would come from donor support, GH¢6,485,000 from the HIPC fund and GH¢235,429,513 from the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
In addition to scaling up programmes of both HIRD and RHNP, the budget statement pointed out that the health sector would also initiate policies that would promote and augment workforce productivity and expand the coverage of the NHIS while taking cognisance of issues of equity, efficiency and financial sustainability of the scheme.
It stated that these priorities would be complemented by additional initiatives that would be launched and vigorously pursued through the promotion of healthy eating and the use of safe water with the objective of reducing food-related and water-borne diseases.
Other programmes for 2008, as contained in the budget, are the enhancement of quality and broader coverage of clinical care which would include referrals, revamping of hospitals and mortuaries, development of clinical protocols, provision of infrastructure and equipping laboratories, pharmacies and theatres.
Other areas to be looked at, according to the budget statement, would include expansion of middle level training programmes targeted at the training of medical assistants, midwives and health assistants for the sub-districts, while enhancing workforce productivity with improved health management information system and also the strengthening of inter-sectoral collaboration for effective health promotion.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Cedi Notes Have Enhanced Business Transaction ....Says Baah-Wiredu (page 11)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah

FINANCE and Economic Planning Minister, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, has noted that the introduction of the new cedi notes and coins has remarkably saved the time used in business transactions.
He explained that the length of time spent on counting for example, ¢500,000 in any of the old denominations, could be reduced to a second with one new GH¢50 note.
Mr Baah-Wiredu told the Daily Graphic soon after speaking at this year’s Charity and Technology Exhibition by the Kristo Asafo Mission at Awoshie, near Accra, that the time and energy previously used in counting volumes of money had been drastically reduced and the gain could be channelled into other productive activities.
He noted that following the re-denomination, the cedi had now been graded, together with seven other major currencies out of 200 world-wide, as a feasible match to the dollar.
He said although no real assessment had been made of the exercise, it was clear that significant savings had been made in the area of time and energy adding that savings made in the cost of printing and minting so many of the old cedi notes and coins could be used to develop other sectors of the economy.
“The cost of doing business has reduced and the risk of carrying too much money for business purposes have also reduced,”he observed
The finance minister said another positive offshoot of the exercise was that accounting processing had become easier because many of the zeros of figures had been removed.
Mr Baah-Wiredu pointed out that a visit to any bank showed that business had become easier and quicker for customers and bank staff.
He took the opportunity to commend the Bank of Ghana (BoG), the implementor of the exercise, financial institutions, and the public for working so hard to support the exercise which began in July 2007.
Mr Baah-Wiredu said although the old Ghanaian cedi would cease to be legal tender by December 31, 2007, those with the old currency could change them till the end of June, 2008.
He pointed out that special desks would be created at the financial institutions to enable the public to change any amount of old currency they might have on them after December 31, 2007 adding that “every pesewa would be changed.”
He reiterated that one needed not to be a customer of a bank to be able to change his or her old currency for the new.
In July this year, the Bank of Ghana re-denominated the current cedi by knocking off four zeros to reduce the quantity carried or recorded.
The central bank set the numerals at ¢10,000=GH, ¢1=100Gp.
The new currency is denominations in GH¢1, GH¢5, GH¢10, GH¢20 and GH¢50, while the coins are in 1Gp, 5Gp, 10Gp, 20Gp, 50Gp and GH¢1.
Both notes have been circulating concurrently since July 1, this year. However, from January 1, 2008 only the Ghana Cedi will be legal tender and could not be used in any transaction.

Quashigah Decries Filthy Environment (page 19)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah

THE Minister of Health, Major Courage Quashigah (retd), has decried the attitude of some Ghanaians who continually make the environment filthy, in spite of persistent education.
He expressed worry about the volume of filth around, and noted that it was one of the biggest problems facing the country.
Speaking to journalists during his ministry’s End-of Year staff get-together in Accra, Major Quashigah said “Ghanaians are a beautiful people, but the environment does not look like them”.
He said many of the country’s health-related problems could be solved if the people lived in a clean environment, did physical exercises, ate fruits and vegetables and drank enough water. “Cleanliness is important for a healthy living,” he stressed.
He observed that one important aspect of exercises which many people ignored was dancing, and urged Ghanaians to show interest in dancing.
He touched on the public health sector’s new policy of regenerative health and nutrition, adding that so far, 32 districts in all the 10 regions of the country had already been introduced to the programme for a better health.
Addressing the staff of the ministry, Maj. Quashigah advised them to work hard, since hard work was always rewarded and took the opportunity to commend them for playing their part effectively in the past year.
The Guest of Honour for the occasion, who was a former Director of the then Ghana Medical Service, Dr E. N. Mensah, told the staff about the importance of discipline and hard work, adding that “the era that manna fell from the heavens is passed”.
The Chief Director of the Ministry of Health (MoH), Lepowura M.N. D. Jawula, advised against lateness to work and said since they were in a strategic position as health sector workers, it was important for them to set good examples for others to emulate.
As part of the programme, Dr Kofi Ahmed, the Chief Medical Officer of the MoH, and Mr George Agyenfrah of the Traditional Alternative Medicine Division were given awards for high performance. While Mr Edward Yamoah was adjudged the Best Driver for the year, Ms Seraphina Isahak, a Secretary, and Mr Harrison Darkwa, a Clerk, were given awards for punctuality.
The Government Spokesperson on Social Services, Mr Kofi Amponsah Bediako, was given a special award for a good work done.