Thursday, April 10, 2008

Baah-Wiredu off to World Bank, IMF meetings

Thursday, April 10, 2008 (Daily Graphic Pg 57)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, has left Accra for Washington DC, United States to attend this year’s Commonwealth HIPC Finance Ministers Meeting.
He will also attend the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) 2008 Spring meetings, scheduled between yesterday and April 13.
From Washington DC, the Finance Minister will continue to Copenhagen, Denmark to participate in an international conference on the gender aspect of the Millennium Development Goal (MDGs). It has the theme “The Gender Challenge - Economic Empowerment of Women”.
According to information gathered at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning in Accra, Mr Baah-Wiredu will also make a stop-over in London, where he is scheduled to brief a group of investors in the United Kingdom (UK) on April 18, 2008.
The meeting for the Commonwealth HIPC Finance Ministers is to enable the ministers to discuss a wide range of issues including the world economic situation; IMF and World Bank issues; multilateral debt; the political process and management of economic change.
The ministers are also expected to discuss how best to work towards strengthening greater economic co-operation among Commonwealth countries in trade, investment and development.
The Spring meetings of the IMF's Financial Committee and the joint World Bank-IMF Development Committee would also discuss progress on the work of the fund and bank.
This year, the meetings will include briefings on the Global Monitoring Report, which keeps track of the world's progress in implementing the policies and actions for achieving the MDGs; Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) Remittances Report; the US slowdown and economic perspectives for Latin America and the World Development Indicators.
The Copenhagen conference on gender is being held at the invitation of the Danish Ministry for Development Co-operation and is meant to provide input to the international MDGs campaign to ensure a strong focus on the MDG 3 which promotes gender equality and empowerment of women.
“The expected outcome of the conference will be to define the main gender challenges and to identify what concrete commitment and actions need to be taken. The focus will be on both public and private sector initiatives.”
The Director of Sub-Saharan Publishers, Ms Akosua Ofori-Mensah, has also been invited to attend the gender conference.

Common financial system for government organisations

Thursday, April 10, 2008 (Daily Graphic Pg 49)
Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE Controller and Accountant General’s Department (CAGD) is in the process of placing all government organisations on a common financial system for payment of salaries and related allowances.
The move is to ensure accountability and transparency in the administration of government finances in the area of wages, salaries and related payments.
So far 13 out of a total of about 114 subvented organisations who are self-accounting, have been integrated onto the government payroll.
The organisations include the Pharmacy Council, the Driver and Vehicle and Licensing Authority (DVLA), the Ghana Law Reform, the Ghana Export Promotion Council, the Ghana Veterinary Council, the Ghana Technical Training Centre and the National Symphony Orchestra.
The rest are the State Enterprises Commission, the Saint John’s Ambulance, the Central Region Development Commission, the National Board for Small-Scale Industries, the Prices and Incomes Board and the National Sports Council.
Information gathered at the Payroll Unit of the CAGD indicates that about 146 government organisations made of up ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) are currently on the government pay roll.
The Controller and Accountant General, Mr Christian Tetteh Sottie told the Daily Graphic in Accra that it was important for all government organisations to be put under one system to ensure effective monitoring.
He noted that responsibility lay in the hands of the CAGD, which is mandated to receive all monies meant for the government and also to make all payments on behalf of the government.
He said to get things right, a team of consultants were currently studying the different software being used by the individual subvented organisations and their existing staff data to determine how they could be linked to the national system.
Mr Sottie added that to avoid complication in the process, the affected organisations would gradually be added onto the list as and when they were cleared.
Some of the subvented organisations yet to be migrated on the payroll are the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), the Ghana Statistical Service, National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), the Electoral Commission (EC), the public universities and the polytechnics.
Throwing more light on the issue, the Director in charge of Payroll at the CAGD, Mr Daniel Y. Domelevo, said the Financial Administration Act of 2003, (Act 654) mandated the Controller and Accountant General “to receive, disburse and provide secure custody for the monies payable into the Consolidated Fund”.
He added that the Financial Administration Regulation 294 also stated that “It is the Controller and Accountant General who provides the procedures to be followed in the payment of salaries, wages and related allowances.”
He said in addition to that, Regulation 295 also stated that “any other system used in the payment of the public servant salary shall be approved by Controller and Accountant General”, adding that since the Controller had the authority to permit any organisation to use a particular system to pay its staff, the officer could also demand that the system was changed in the best interest of the country.
Mr Domelevo stressed that it was not the desire of the CAGD to create problems for any organisation hence the change and pointed out that it was intended to ensure effective monitoring.
He explained that looking at the numbers involved and the sizes of some of the organisations, not all of them would be linked directly to the national system and said that organisations with large staff size may be allowed to continue to use their individual software but there would be measures to monitor their payment system.
He, therefore, appealed to all the affected organisations to co-operate with the department to ensure smooth transfer on their staff list when the need arose.

Zoomlion to set up environment clubs

Thursday, April 10, 2008 (Daily Graphic Pg 47)
Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah & Justina Ampadu-Nyarko
ZOOMLION Ghana Limited has carried the issue of good sanitation further by collaborating with a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Life Bridge 68, to set up environmental sanitation clubs in schools.
The objective of the clubs is to instil good environmental practices in the children and prepare them to serve as peer educators to others.
The slogan for the clubs is “Keep Ghana Clean” with “Catch Them Young” as the response.
The launch which was held at the Kokomlemle Cluster of Schools in Accra, was witnessed by hundreds of schoolchildren and dignitaries from the ministries of Local Government, Rural Development and Environment; Women and Children Affairs; Health as well as Education, Science and Sports.
Others were from the World Bank, the Parliamentary Select Committee on Environment Sanitation and the Ghana Education Service (GES).
Addressing the participants, the Deputy Minister of Women and Children, Mr Daniel Dugan, said proper waste management ensured good and healthy lives.
He said if Ghanaians took care of their environment, a greater proportion of funds allocated to health and sanitation from the state and donors could be used for other projects such as education, research and food production.
He said the Ministry of Women and Children was committed to the vision which was shared by the UNICEF 2000 Report which stated that “every child, without exception, lives a full and healthy life”.
Mr Dugan also stated that the ministry had the responsibility to ensure that all infants started life healthily and that young children were nurtured in a caring environment.
The Communication Manager of Zoomlion Ghana Limited, Mrs Isabella Gyau-Orhin, said while UNICEF and other development agencies were looking at how best to solve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) IV which touched on reducing child mortality by the year 2015, it was important for Ghanaians to also look for local solutions which are less costly and yet effective.
Giving statistics to support her statement, she said it was estimated that in every hour, about 100 children died from diarrhoea, adding that many of these lives could be saved through better access to improved sanitation and basic hygiene such as washing hands with soap.
Mrs Gyau-Orhin said the management of Zoomlion believed that inculcating good sanitary habits and the proper ways of waste disposal in the children would at least, help minimise littering of the environment.
“These children will serve as environmental guards and advise their colleagues and even adults who may want to litter indiscriminately”, she stated.
The Project Co-ordinator of Life Bridge 68 Foundation, Mrs Juliana Arhin, said the launch of Zoom Kids Club complemented the International Year of Sanitation which would be observed this year.
She said the decision to inculcate the principles of environmental health in children would serve as an effective way of curbing the problem of waste management in the country.
Goodwill messages were presented by representatives from the Parliamentary Select Committee on Environment and Sanitation; the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports; Ghana Education Service; the Ministry of Local Government and the World Bank.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

World Health Day Launched (Spread)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah & Jasmine Afari-Mintah
World Health Day was observed yesterday with a reminder to Ghanaians to beware of the negative effects of environmental degradation on human survival.
Speaking to a cross-section of Ghanaians at the ceremony in Accra, which also marked the 60th anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Maj. Courage Quashigah (retd), Minister of Health, said the country’s experience with flooding in some parts of the country was an indication of what Ghanaians could go through if the worse happened.
The theme for the occasion was “Protecting Health From Climate Change”.
Linking the environment to the health of the people, the Health Minister said: “Indeed there is the danger that the gains that we have made so far in health will all be erased if we start facing the full effects of climate change.”
He said last year some health infrastructure was destroyed in parts of the country, adding, “Imagine if we have to live through this every year.”
He pointed out that the Ghana Meteorological Department had predicted heavy rains with the possibility of flooding in parts of the country and advised the people to desist from activities that degraded the environment.
“The irony is that these are almost certainly our own making. It looks as if the human race is in a self destruct mode,” he stressed.
For his part, the WHO Representative in Ghana, Dr Joachim Soweka, said the celebration was the beginning of an international movement that would catalyse public participation to protect health from the adverse effects of climate change.
He noted that it would also bring public health to the centre of the United Nations (UN) agenda on climate change.
Dr Joachim Soweka stated that a recent study by the WHO estimated that climate change directly or indirectly contributed to about 160,000 deaths annually, adding, “Asia and the pacific regions of the world alone account for about half of the world’s total deaths attributed to climate change.”
“We have now reached a critical stage in which global warming has already seriously impacted lives and health. This problem will pose an even greater threat to mankind in coming decades if we fail to act now,” he warned.
He reiterated that the theme was also a call for action to reach and involve a wider range of actors in the community that included the government, MDA’s, and NGO’s to take advantage of the energy and commitment of the people to enable every individual to become less vulnerable to climate change.
The Deputy Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr George Amofah, said it was unfortunate that health personnel had little knowledge of issues concerning climate change because they had to spend their time solving healthcare delivery problems to the detriment of other issues.
He said it was refreshing that this year’s theme related to climate change and health, and expressed the hope that it would offer the opportunity for health personnel to learn new things to enable them to play their part effectively when the need arose.
The Deputy Director of Environmental Protection Agency, Mr Daniel Amlalo, who was the chairman for the occasion, said climate change affected human health through a variety of mechanisms, noting that “it can adversely impact the availability of fresh water supplies, the efficiency of local sewage systems and the likelihood to affect food security”.
Mr Amlalo said the strategies to deal with the climate change on health needed inter-sectoral and cross-sectional adaptation measures and collaboration, stressing that “the health sector alone, or in limited collaboration with a few sectors, cannot deal with the necessary primary adaptation”.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Show Commitment to Sickle Cell Disease (Page 32)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE Federation of Associations of Sickle Cell Societies, an advocacy group on sickle cell disease, has appealed to the government to show commitment to issues of sickle cell disease just as it does for other life-threatening diseases.
According to the group, if resources were devoted to educate Ghanaians on how to prevent the disease, many people, especially couples-to-be, would be in a position to make informed decisions before marriage.
In an interview in connection with the celebration of the Africa Day of Sickle Cell, which falls on May 10, every year, the Vice-President of the federation, Mr Peter Mensah, said some couples ended up bringing forth children with the disease as a result of the lack of knowledge.
He also talked about the lack of adequate healthcare facilities to manage the disease.
The disease is an inherited blood disorder that affects red blood cells. People with sickle cell disease have red blood cells that contain mostly haemoglobin S, an abnormal type of haemoglobin.
Sometimes, these red blood cells become sickle shaped (crescent shaped) and have difficulty passing through small blood vessels, therefore causing severe pain.
When sickle-shaped cells block small blood vessels, less blood can reach certain parts of the body. Tissues that do not receive normal blood flow eventually become damaged, causing the complications of sickle cell disease.
Statistics provided by Professor F.I.D. Konotey-Ahulu in his publication, “The Sickle Cell Disease Patient (1991)”, indicated that out of every million children born in Ghana, not less than 30,000 inherit an abnormal gene relating to haemoglobin formation from both parents, resulting in the disease.
According to the report, more than 20,000 of that number will suffer from sickle cell disease.
Mr Mensah said it was unfortunate for society to ignore the issues of sickle cell and leave patients and their families to suffer alone.
He said sickle cell patients, just like sufferers of some other diseases, had the disease through no fault of theirs and should, therefore, be given all the needed support to manage their conditions properly, since there was currently no cure for it.
“How can people who have to visit hospital all the days of their lives live happily without the needed support from society?” he queried.
Mr Mensah said sickle cell was affecting many homes where, apart from the pain that patients went through, parents and guardians of such patients had to suffer financial, emotional and social strain to care for them.
He took the opportunity to appeal to patients of the disease and parents affected by the disease to come together to fight a good cause, adding that those who suffered from it and who had managed to make it in life should come out to tell their stories to encourage others.
For his part, a consultant to the federation, Mr Kojo Morgan, appealed to all Ghanaians, as well as the government and both local and international institutions, to commit themselves to alleviating the plight of sickle cell disease patients.
Mr Morgan, who said he had sicklers in his family, said many patients were forced to isolate themselves because of stigmatisation and called for support from all to reduce both the emotional and physical pain of patients.

Medical Breakthrough in TB & HIV (Mirror, Page 3)

By Lucy Adoma Yeboah (April 5, 2008)
THE medical assertion that tuberculosis (TB) in HIV could be cured has been confirmed by the cure of 74 HIV (58 per cent) infected persons out of a total of 126 who tested positive for both diseases in 2007.
This new development has necessitated the screening of HIV patients for TB to ensure early detection and treatment.
Speaking in Accra as part of the World TB Day celebration, the Programme Manager of the National TB Control Programme (NTCP), Dr Frank Bonsu, said “TB in HIV patients is curable”.
TB is considered the leading cause of death in HIV infected persons. The disease causes severe illness and increases progression to AIDS and, therefore, is seen as the number one killer of HIV patients.
This year's World TB Day, which had the theme “I am Stopping TB”, aims at celebrating the lives and stories of people affected by TB.
Addressing journalists, Dr Bonsu said “Ghana is on course in the area of TB control”.
He explained that in 2007, the country exceeded the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended treatment target of 70 per cent, by five per cent.
Information made available to journalists at the function indicated that the implementation of the Directly Observed Treatment Strategy (DOTS) in Ghana had recorded major improvement. In 1996 out of 6,245 cases recorded, 1,057 (16.9 per cent) were cured but 3,863 (61.9 per cent ) were not evaluated.
The situation has, however, improved as at 2006 where out of the 7,786 cases registered, 5,519 (70.0 per cent) got cured and 251 (32 per cent) were not evaluated.
These statistics, according to Dr Bonsu, showed tremendous increase in the adherence to treatment, and that proper supervision of patients had increased the cure rate and the number of cases being accounted for or evaluated.
He called on the media to support the health sector in its fight against TB and said “together we can eliminate the disease”.
The Head of Disease Control and Prevention Department of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Kyei Faried, said since Ghana had been able to control diseases such as poliomyelitis and measles, TB could be also be controlled.
Dr Faried, who was the chairman for the function, said that although there were challenges, the GHS had performed creditably in the area of disease control and management and called for support from all stakeholders.
TB is an air-borne disease. It is transmitted when an infected person coughs, sneezes, shouts, sings and talks. Symptoms of TB include fever, night sweats, fatigue, weight loss and persistent cough for more than two weeks, among others.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

GMA Sets Up Unit to Promote Good Health (Page 49)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) has set up a Public Health Education and Advocacy Unit to help achieve its goal of promoting good health among Ghanaians.
The unit is to building partnerships and collaborating with all professions and groups interested in optimal health care delivery.
In an interview with the General Secretary of the GMA, Dr Sodzi Sodzi-Tettey, he said currently, the unit had a core of 50 volunteer specialists and general medical practitioners poised to deepen the quality of health discourse in the print and electronic media.
Dr Sodzi-Tettey said for the GMA to achieve its objective, the association had communicated the formation of the unit to various press houses who may require the services of the volunteers for their health-related programmes.
He said already the unit had a partnership with two Accra-based radio stations for health education programmes, adding that the unit had been involved in educating the university community through Radio Univers, on Thursdays, for the past two months.
“Just last week, the GMA concluded a partnership deal with the management of Citi FM where every Wednesday, an hour is allocated to health on the Citi Morning Show. Both parties are keen to make it a success, with the first programme scheduled to come off this Wednesday, the 2nd of April at 9.00a.m”, he stated.
The General Secretary said similar collaboration with media houses were being worked out in the Ashanti and Upper East Regions.

Accountant-General To Set Up Call Centre (Spread)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE Controller and Accountant-General’s Department (CAGD) will soon establish a Call Centre where workers could call free from any part of the country to make enquiries on their salaries and other related matters.
The CAGD has, however, created a payroll help desk with telephone number 021-678801 to offer prompt assistance to workers on government payroll concerning problems related to their wages, salaries and other related matters.
These were contained in a statement released by the Controller and Accountant-General, Mr Christian T. Sottie, after a tour of Ho and Cape Coast to interact with the public, especially workers and pensioners, to see how best to improve upon service delivery.
The team of CAGD’s officials on the tour had already visited the Eastern Region, where similar fora were organised for workers and pensioners separately to deal with specific issues affecting each group.
Some of the issues which Mr Sottie touched on included the government payroll, promotional arrears, overpayment loan recovery, tax in arrears, tax on arrears, Ghana Medical Association (GMA) dues, third party deductions, delay in salaries and NAGRAT agitation.
Addressing the workers, Mr Sottie said it was unfortunate that the CAGD was always blamed when newly employed workers were not paid and explained that the department only paid employees whose data had been presented for payment by the various ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
For those already on the payroll but who had problems with their salaries, he said a technical problem which affected the new computer system (IPPD II) being used to process the payments had posed challenges not only to the consultants who supervised its implementation but also the CAGD in its payroll administration.
He, however, gave the assurance that the problem would be resolved soon to clear all arrears due workers, including promotional arrears, overpayment, loan recovery and some deductions which were done by mistake.
Talking to the pensioners, Mr Sottie said they formed a crucial part of the activities of the department, since it was a sensitive area where the government was interested in seeing transformation.
“It should be less stressful for our gallant public servants who have successfully served the nation,” he noted, pointing out that about 80 per cent of the work involving pension processing was performed by the MDAs and 20 per cent at the CAGD, adding that it was important to look at the process within the MDAs to remove bottlenecks.
He identified the late submission of documents and files by MDAs, the submission of incomplete and inaccurate information and third party confirmation of documents as some of the issues that created delays in processing pension documents.
Briefing the Daily Graphic, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the CAGD, Mr Emmanuel K. Addo, said the series of fora had so far been successful.
He said the programme provided the avenue for the department to explain some of its operations and also obtain a feedback from workers.

Talk Tax Receives Presidential Assent (Page 3)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE much talked about Communications Service Tax Bill (Talk Tax) has finally received presidential assent to become law.
With the law in place, six per cent of the charge for the use of communication services will go into government coffers as tax when its implementation begins.
To reduce the burden of taxation on consumers, other laws have been enacted to abolish the imposition of some taxes on telephone sets, which include mobile, cellular and satellite phones in the country.
These laws include the enactment of Act 751, which abolishes import duty on the importation of the sets; Act 751, which exempts such equipment from the imposition of the Value Added Tax (VAT), and Act 753, which amends the National Health Insurance Act of 2003 (Act 650) to exempt all telephone sets from the imposition of the National Health Insurance Levy (NHIL).
The four acts ( 751, 752, 753 and 754), which had been earlier passed by Parliament before it rose for recess on March 19, 2008, were all signed by President J.A. Kufuor on March 28, 2008.
The much debated of the four acts, the Communications Service Tax Act of 2008 (Act 754), is “to provide for the imposition of a communications service tax and related matters”.
Section One (1) of the act stipulates that “there is imposed by this act a tax to be known as the Communications Service Tax to be levied on charges payable by consumers for the use of communications service”.
Under Section Four of the act, which talks about the “Collection of the tax and payment into the Consolidated Fund”, it said the VAT Service was responsible for its administration and management and shall collect and account for the tax, any interest and penalty paid under the act.
It further explained that the tax shall be levied on all communications service usage charged by communication service providers with Class One licences as provided in the National Communications Regulations of 2003 (L.I. 1719).
“The tax shall be paid together with the communications service to communication service provided by consumers of the service”, it stated.
On the benefit of the tax, it stated that at least 20 per cent of the revenue generated from it shall be used to finance the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP).
Under Section Six, which touches on “Submission of the tax return and time for payment of the tax”, it states that unless otherwise directed by the Commissioner of the VAT Service in writing, a communication service provider shall file a tax return to account for the tax, adding that the tax return shall be in a form prescribed by the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning and shall state the amount of tax payable for the period and any related matters that may be required, among other things.
“A service provider who, without justification, fails to submit to the commissioner the tax return by the due date is liable to a pecuniary penalty of GH¢2,000 and a further penalty of GH¢500 for each day that the return is not submitted,” it pointed out.
It also pointed out that a tax, penalty or any interest due under the act which remained unpaid after the date might be recovered by the Commissioner of the VAT Service as a debt and use all legal means to recover.