Wednesday, July 30, 2008

MoU signed on four hydro projects (Back Page )

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (July 29, 2008)

THE Ministry of Energy and a local consortium, Pato Power Company, have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to begin work on four mini hydroelectric dams on rivers Tano, Ankobra and Pra.
The US$900 million project, which is scheduled to be completed in three years, is estimated to provide a total of 250 megawatts electric power to boost the country’s energy supply.
The River Pra, which runs through both the Central and Western regions of Ghana, will accommodate two of the dams; one at Awisam in the Central Region and the other in Sekyere Heman in the Western Region.
The other two dam sites are on the Ankobra River at Bunso and on the Tano River at Tanoso, both in the Western Region.
Synohydro Company of China, the firm constructing the Bui Hydroelectric Dam, has been awarded the contract to work on the projects.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in Accra, the Executive Chairman of Supercare Group Limited, the local representative of Synohydro Company of China, Mr William Oppong Bio, said preparations were ongoing to get the sites ready for separate sod-cutting ceremonies in the four communities by the President, Mr John Agyekum Kufuor, by the end of August, 2008.
Mr Bio pointed out that a site investigation team from Synohydro Company was expected in the country in a month’s time to take measurements on the rivers to determine the exact portions to house each of the dams.
He stated that 90 per cent of the $900 million needed for the project was being sourced from J.P. Morgan, a United Kingdom (UK) financial institution, by Pato Power Company and the remaining 10 per cent, which served as equity, was also being provided by the consortium and the Government of Ghana.
He stressed that about 3,000 Ghanaians would be employed to work on the four projects.
Studies have already been done on the three rivers to update existing feasibility studies that had been conducted since 1960. The update was done by Supercare Group Limited and Coyner et Bellier, a French company that deals in hydro projects.
The last time an attempt was made at building the dams was in 1995 when the former President, Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings, made a statement to that effect in the State of the Nation Address that he read on January 6, 1995.
The estimated 250 megawatts electric power to be generated from the four dams would add up to the about 900 megawatts from the Akosombo Hydroelectric Dam as well as an estimated 400 megawatts to be supplied from the ongoing Bui Hydroelectric project. Other sources of energy supply include the Aboadze Thermal Plant and other power generating plants owned by some public and private sector companies.

Friday, July 25, 2008

MiDA signs agreement with EPA for project assessment (Back Page)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE Millennium Development Authority (MiDA) yesterday signed an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enable the EPA to undertake environmental assessment and issue permits for the commencement of projects under the programme.
The MiDA is the agency responsible for the disbursement of the US$547 million Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) funding from the government of the United States of America (USA) to Ghana. Under the programme, farmers as well as other farming-based organisations (FBO) related to the programme have to be issued with environmental complaint permit to enable them to access the fund.
The projects include permits and processing fees for community service projects such as highways, trunk and feeder roads within the beneficiary communities and other non-transportation infrastructure; field trips for screening and also categorisation and monitoring of activities under the agricultural credit programme.
At a signing ceremony in Accra, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MiDA, Mr Martin Eson-Benjamin, said the agreement was one of the implementing entities of the US$547 million MCA funding from the government of the US to Ghana to improve upon agriculture.
Present at the ceremony were the Deputy Resident Country Director of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) in Ghana, Ms Katerina S. Ntep, and also some officials from MiDA and EPA.
Under the MCA, the country had been divided into three zones namely the Northern, the Afram Basin and the Southern zones, and in all 23 districts have been selected to benefit.
Out of the number, the Northern Zone has five districts, the Afram Basin Zone, six districts and the Southern Zone, 12 districts.
With the assistance from the programme, Mr Eson-Benjamin pointed out that agricultural productivity and production of both food and cash crops must be improved and values enhanced to enable the country to move into competition with others within the industry.
He announced that $1.34 million had been given to the first batch of farmers who qualified under the terms and expressed the hope that EPA would expedite action on the programme to enable more farmers to access the funds on time.
The Executive Secretary of EPA, Mr Jonathan Allotey, said issues of the environment was important, since it was considered the third pillar of development, the others being social and economic.
Mr Allotey gave the assurance that the agency would play its role effectively knowing well that the programme was time bound.

Agencies discuss high cost of imports (Page 55)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (Thursday, July 24, 2008)
Revenue collecting agencies have complained about the attitude of importers who under-declare the cost of imported items to enable them to pay little tax and increase their profit margin.
They identified the attitude as a contributory factor to the rise in inflation and the high cost of living being experienced in the country.
At a press briefing organised in Accra by the agencies to address the issue of high cost of imported goods, in spite of the low taxes paid by importers, the agencies stated that there was evidence to suggest that some importers under-declared the cost of imported items, for the purposes of taxation, only to sell them exorbitantly on the market.
They said without suggesting price control mechanisms, it was important that the issue was made public for the benefit of consumers and also for the agencies to adopt measures to recover the appropriate taxes due the government.
The briefing, which was attended by officials of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, the Revenue Agencies Governing Board (RAGB), the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), was devoted to the pricing of imported alcoholic beverages, with the promise that other imported items would be handled in subsequent briefings.
In his presentation, the Commissioner of CEPS, Mr Emmanuel Doku, said routine post-event analyses conducted on imports of alcoholic beverages in November 2007 revealed significant variations in the values used in their clearance.
He said attempts were, therefore, made to get the importers to pay the appropriate duties on the said goods but pointed out that 21 importers who were found culpable were still owing the state more than GH¢1.2 million.
Mr Doku observed that a market survey conducted some months after that exercise indicated that “there is still a yawning gap between export values and the selling prices of those products”.
A table distributed to journalists by CEPS showed a wide margin between the export value, which comprised the amount paid on cost, insurance and freight (CIF), in addition to import duties, and the prices of those items on the market.
Examples are a litre of Glendffidich whiskey, which had the export value of GH¢19.53, out of which GH¢5.74 was paid as duty, but was selling at GH¢63; a litre of Johnnie Walker Black Label: Export value, GH¢19.14, with GH¢5.71 duty payment but selling price of GH¢58; one litre of Courvoirsier VSOP that had an export value of GH¢28.50, with a tax component of GH¢3.84 and being sold at GH¢65, among others.
The table also revealed that the current level of taxation on those items was an improvement on what persisted in 2007.
For his part, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, said pricing had a lot to do with the economy, since it was related to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and other economic indicators which dealt with the level of inflation within the country.
He made reference to Zimbabwe where because of an abnormal rise in inflation, one billion Zimbabwean dollars could buy only four oranges and urged Ghanaian importers to desist from enjoying at the expense of others while failing to pay the appropriate tax.
The minister reiterated that without any attempt to introduce price control mechanisms, it was important for the right information to be given to consumers, since the impression was created by importers that they were paying too much in taxes.
He agreed that the importers incurred other expenses in order to get the items on to the market but stated that the fact still stood that the margin of profit on those items were too high.
The Executive Secretary of the RAGB, Mr Harry Owusu, hinted that regular checks would be conducted at the markets to identify those importers who defaulted in the payment of taxes to get them to pay.

Accra Race Course squatters ejected (Spread)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (Thursday, July 24, 2008)
ABOUT 100 policemen drawn from the Accra Regional Command of the Ghana Police Service yesterday supervised a demolition exercise at the Accra Race Course to pave the way for the construction of a 5-Star hotel on the site.
The exercise was carried out without any opposition, contrarily to earlier threats from some of the squatters occupying the site to confront anybody who tries to force them out.
When the Daily Graphic team got to the site around 9.30 a.m., the police had cordoned off the area to prevent outsiders who had no business at the site from entering, as two bulldozers pulled down the structures.
The squatters, made up of women, children and mostly young men, looked dejected as they stood by their personal belongings which were scattered on the ground.
There were also a number of horses roaming about on the site when the demolition of the stables took place.
Present were the executives and members of the Horse Owners Association.
Apart from one piece of wrong information that a horse had been run over by a bulldozer, which made the crowd surge to the spot, with the police quickly at their heels, the only negative scenes witnessed were the insults and curses poured on the leadership of the Accra Turf Club, whom the squatters accused of having given them a raw deal.
In an interview, the Operations Commander of the Accra Police Region, Chief Superintendent Christian Tetteh Yohuno, said the police were there because of discussions between the police authorities and the Ghana Tourist Board (GTB) which called for policemen to supervise the exercise to protect lives and property.
He said the police usually performed such duties when an exercise involved the movement of people and their property to avoid unscrupulous people who might take advantage and cause trouble.
Almost all the people the Daily Graphic spoke to at the scene indicated that they had not been told of the demolition exercise, for which reason they had not arranged for new settlements. They, therefore, threatened to continue to stay there till the authorities forced them out.
An old Malian, Baba Bukari, who said he had lived on the land since he came from Mali on July 15, 1957, said he was waiting for the owner of the horses he took care of to convey him and the horses to a safe place.
He confirmed that he heard people say they should move to a new site but since he did not own the horses nor knew where they were supposed to move, he could not do so.
A middle-aged woman, Madam Emelia Dei, told the Daily Graphic that she, together with her family, which included her husband and 10 children, had lived on the site for 15 years. She was the only person who wailed continually as the exercise went on.
For his part, the Vice-Chairman of the Horse Owners Association, Alhaji Muntari Ali, said they failed to move the horses because they had assurances from the government to continue to keep the horses there till a new place had been prepared for them, adding that the new place was about eight per cent complete.
But information gathered at the Ministry of Tourism and Diasporan Relations indicated that the squatters had been given up to July 20, 2008 to vacate the site for the commencement of the hotel project.
That ultimatum followed previous attempts to get the to leave the property to pave the way for the new lease holder to develop the land.
In an interview, the Minister of Tourism and Diasporan Relations, Mrs Oboshie Sai Cofie, stressed that the squatters had consistently defied orders from the Office of the President, the Accra Turf Club which ran the race course and other agencies to vacate the place.
“The irony of the matter is that those presently inhabiting the premises illegally are not even the jockeys,” Mrs Cofie said.
She explained that the behaviour of the squatters had made matters difficult for all involved and insisted that the final date had to be adhered to so that construction would start.
She pointed out that by an agreement between the government and the investors, a new race course had been built at Ashalley Botwe which consisted of about 100 stables, adding that the jockeys and their horses had already left but the squatters claimed they had nowhere to go with their horses.
The minister said it was important to note that the ministry was working hard to ensure that projects of such nature which were of immense benefit to the tourism industry were completed in good time and, therefore, it would not allow a few individuals to hold the entire nation to ransom.
Mrs Cofie said the ministry had been humane for not forcibly ejecting those illegal squatters till now but “now their actions and refusal to quit are costing the state dearly”.
She explained that the kind of entrenched attitude adopted by the squatters did not augur well for Ghana and its investment promotion drive because many investors were discouraged by stories of that nature.
Information available indicates that the old race course grounds, situated behind the Accra International Conference Centre, was run by the Accra Turf Club. As part of arrangements to relocate the race course and put the property to new use, the Kempinski Gold Coast Hotels Group acquired the land and intends to put up a 5-Star hotel and holiday resort there.
The investors agreed to pay for the full cost of a new race course at Ashalley Botwe, which has since been completed with about 100 stables.

Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons-a step to keep our doctors at home (Features Page 27)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (Thursday, July 24, 2008)
THE issue of brain drain has been a problem with Ghana for decades now. The issue becomes even more worrying when one reflects on the number of Ghanaian doctors who leave the “land of our birth” to work elsewhere, sometimes not as doctors but in other lower categories of health practice.
It has been said by officials of the Ministry of Health (MOH) on many occasions that the number of Ghanaian doctors in New York alone is more than those currently practising in Ghana.
Without looking at the statistics in terms of the doctor/patient ratio pertaining in the country, the situation on the ground is enough to indicate that there are not enough doctors as well as other health practitioners in the country. If it were not so, why then do we have to rely on Cuban doctors, especially for the district hospitals?
A source at the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) said that the number of doctors practising in Ghana ranges between 1,700 and 1,800 and if that number is divided by more than 20 million Ghanaians, what good news can come out of such a calculation? That is one of the reasons why some of us sometimes ask ourselves if the average Ghanaian could actually benefit from all the numerous health care policies being introduced by the government.
Fact is, it takes a doctor to diagnose and treat a disease whether for free or at a cost so in the absence of a doctor what happens?
Apart from the economic reasons that forced many Ghanaian doctors to travel abroad, one other reason some of them gave was the need to further their education since there was no institution for post graduate training here. It was, therefore, a welcome news, when Ghana established the College of Physicians and Surgeons through the efforts of some senior health professionals with support from the government and some development partners.
To get the college established, the College of Physicians and Surgeons Act 635 of 2003 was passed by Parliament in December, 2002, and received Presidential assent in early 2003.
Available information indicated that the establishment of the college became possible due to the culmination of efforts by a group of individuals in the medical and dental profession, particularly the Ghana Medical Association (GMA), who were of the view that Ghana should have its own national post graduate medical college for the training of specialists in medicine, surgery and allied specialities.
To them, it was deemed necessary to have an institution which provided specialist training to meet the needs of the country, bearing in mind its human and material resources and they did all that they could to get it established.
So now Ghana has its own College of Physicians and Surgeons which has trained 159 Ghanaian doctors in various areas in specialised medical practice at the postgraduate level between 2005 and 2008.
That was in line with the college’s main objective of encouraging Ghanaian doctors who would otherwise have travelled abroad in pursuit of further studies to do so locally.
Certificates offered at the college include Diploma, Part I & II (Membership) also Fellowship, all in various areas of medicine.
Touching on other benefits the country would accrue out of such a project, the Rector of the college, Professor Paul Kwame Nyame told the Daily Graphic in an interview that instead of spending about $40,000 to train one doctor in postgraduate studies abroad, the government currently spent $3,000 to train each doctor locally.
He said before the establishment of the college in 2003, Ghanaian doctors had to attend the West African College of Physicians and Surgeons in Nigeria or elsewhere in the developed countries, adding that they usually failed to return after their training.
He stressed that the level of training at the college was comparable with what pertained in similar institutions throughout the world, adding that there were always external examiners from the United Kingdom (UK), South Africa and some other African countries to go through examinations.
The rector explained that in order to avoid mediocrity, medical practitioners had to be accessed thoroughly to gain entry into the college. They also had to pass examinations for their certificates.
He named some of the courses offered as anaesthesia, child health, family medicine, internal medicine, laboratory medicine, psychiatry and public health.
The rest are radiation, radiology, ear, nose and throat (ENT), oncology, general surgery, obstetric and gynaecology, ophthalmology and dental surgery.
Professor Nyame observed that in addition to the financial gains to the country for offering the training locally, the people of Ghana would continue to enjoy the services of doctors under training at the college, since they would stay at home and offer practical training at various hospitals.
He was emphatic that unlike doctors who were out of school, those under training were always willing to practice in the regional and district hospitals, provided the right equipment for training was available.
According to the rector, the main objective of the college was to minimise the number of Ghanaian doctors who left the country annually and expressed the hope that its establishment would minimise the trend, as results had already started showing.
“The establishment of the college has helped to encourage many Ghanaian doctors to stay at home and work, since they are assured of opportunities to further their education locally,” he pointed out.
Touching on doctors who were already outside, he expressed the hope that those who travelled because of further education would come back home to continue provided they had the requisite qualification, adding that three of such doctors returned to enrol in the college in 2007.
Throughout the interview, Professor Paul Nyame continually expressed his appreciation to a former official of the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Ghana, Evelene Hefkins, who he said helped the college which was then situated on a small compound around the Switch Back Road in Accra, to secure a $5 million-dollar assistance from the Dutch government for the magnificent building which now housed the college around the Liberation Circle.
In addition, he praised a former Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Mr Yaw Barimah ,for the effort he put in to enable the college acquire a site for the project.
“There were times that he took me round Accra to look for a suitable site. We tried various places until we finally settled on the present site. We are grateful to him”, Prof. Nyame recounted.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) which is responsible for the college was also mentioned in the role it played in getting things done for the college to see the light of day.
The Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons was established by an Act of Parliament (Act 635). That came about after a group of individuals in the medical profession had advocated for a national postgraduate college to provide training for specialists in medicine, surgery and allied specialities.
In pursuance of its objectives, the college, among other things, organises and supervises specialist training, continuous professional development and supports research in medicine, awards diplomas, certificates and professional distinctions and also initiates and participates in activities and discussions aimed at sound health and the formulation of public policies on health.
“That college could be compared to any similar institution anywhere in the world”, a medical consultant at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) told the Daily Graphic.
With such a an institution to train our doctors in post graduate courses, we hope and pray that they would appreciate all those distinguished men and women, whose efforts turned such a big dream to reality and if for nothing at all, stay home and help save us from the pain of diseases, especially those which are prevalent only in the tropics.

NHIS Solid (Front Page)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (Thursday, July 24, 2008)

THE National Health Insurance Scheme is financially solid to meet the increasing demand for health delivery in the country.
This assurance was given by Mr Ras Boateng, Chief Executive of the National Health Insurance Council (NHIC) when he met the Editorial team of the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday.
He explained “actuarial studies conducted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) concluded that the scheme is financially sound”.
Mr Boateng said the scheme is the the most liquid insurance entity in the country with savings and investments worth more than GH¢200 million.
The Chief Executive was responding to questions on allegations of corruption made against the NHIC in a 2005 report by the Auditor General, worker agitation and threats of industrial action by the Association of District Mutual Health Insurance staff.
He said the NHIC has put in place structures, such as internal audit department, procurement unit an entity tender committee and a research department to deal with the challenges facing the scheme in order to plug the loopholes in the system.
Some of the measures, Mr Boateng said, include the development of operational, financial and governance manual as well as an internal audit charter to guide the operations of the scheme as well as the usage of public resources.
On the data front, Mr Boateng the technology platform was also to help the council to integrate all the schemes in a network environment to ensure transparency and the reduction of fraud.
He noted that if the scheme was not integrated it was easy for any person to use the SSNIT number to register more than once and open up the scheme to abuse.
He said the new tariff structure was also intended to standardise the tariffs the schemes pay to service providers and to prevent service schemes from negotiating one on one with individual service providers, which could be a key source of corruption and fraud.
The CEO disclosed that in a significant move, a former Executive Secretary of the NHIC, Dr Sam Akor, has refunded the money which the Auditor-General accused him of misappropriating between 2004 and 2005.
The order for the refund was part of the recommendations made by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament after its public hearing on some aspects of reports by the Auditor-General on a number of public institutions, including the NHIC.
The PAC ordered Dr Akor to pay GH¢1,660 out of the millions of Ghana cedis which the Auditor-General accused some individuals and companies of illegally taking from the NHIC during the initial stages of the implementation of the insurance scheme.
Mr Boateng pointed out that to get things right, he had personally appeared before the PAC on four occasions to offer explanations to certain issues, although he was not employed at the time the anomalies occurred.
He said when he took over the running of the scheme in 2006, there were no structures to promote the effective management of the place, hence those lapses which created the problems the audit report touched on.
According to Mr Boateng, since the scheme was new, a lot of mistakes were made which the current management was trying to correct, adding that the present opposition he faced from some of the personnel in the districts stemmed from the fact that he wanted to effect changes that would further improve upon the operations of the scheme.
The CEO has of late been accused by some workers of the District Mutual Health Insurance Schemes (DMHIS) of being “a corporate dictator” who took actions without consulting other members of staff, filling positions with his relatives, adopting ways to dismiss accounting staff within the DMHIS with the introduction of an aptitude test, among others.
He denied all the allegations, stating that “since they could not accuse me of corruption, they tried to call me a dictator”.
He said series of malpractices were going on within the individual schemes, including the adoption of fraudulent methods to cheat the system, adding that the security agencies were working on some of the complaints.
He added that the accusations against him came about when he tried to introduce measures to check fraud and incompetence which had existed within the various schemes because no such measures existed to serve as checks.
“Were they not the same people who, a year ago, made statements to the effect that I was good for the place?” he queried.
He explained that the NHIA was mandated by law to set standards and enforce their adherence within the NHIS, with the aim of ensuring the efficiency, accountability and sustainability of the NHIS.
On the issue of the aptitude test, the CEO said the authority recently invited accounting staff of the DMHIS to participate in an aptitude test to determine their competencies to help them to improve on their skills, but in spite of the adequate notice given them, the accountants refused to take the test and rather resorted to making statements in the media reading motives into the decision.
He explained that the tests became necessary because although some training programmes had been organised for the accountants, later reports by internal auditors and external auditors of the Audit Service indicated serious challenges in accounting practices within the schemes.
“The test was intended to comprehensively identify competency gaps with a view to designing a tailor-made training programme for the accountants. The goal is to equip them to account more professionally for public funds entrusted to the schemes but not to dismiss anyone,” he explained.
He stressed that his sole interest was to see to the success of the scheme so that many people, especially the poor, would benefit, but not to allow a few individuals to run it down.
He said he was determined with his new team of administrators to open up the scheme for public scrutiny to ensure its success.
Mr Boateng said part of the strategy include the provision of a hotline at the NHIA secretariat which premium holders who have grievances can call to seek redress.
He said apart from the diseases on the exclusion list such as prostrate cancer, dentures, cosmetic plastic surgery, chronic renal treatment, hearing aid, mortuary fees and designer frames for spectacles.
Mr Boateng said anti-retroviral drugs are also not covered under the scheme because they are subsidised but opportunistic diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea and TB are covered.
He said the scheme had made strides beyond the government’s expectation as the scheme had registered 55 per cent of the registrable population.
He said more strides would be made from next academic year when all children under 18 years in school would be registered.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hydro studies on three rivers updated (back page)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah (Wednesday, July 23, 2008)
STUDIES on three rivers earmarked for the construction of additional hydro dams in Ghana have been updated for the execution of the projects.
The three rivers, which lie in the south-western part of the country, are the Pra, Ankobra and Tano.
The latest work was done by a Ghanaian consultancy firm, Supercare Group Limited, and Coyner et Bellier, a French company that deals in hydro projects.
The purpose of the recent work, which was completed in March, this year, was for the two companies to update a number of feasibility studies that had previously been conducted by different companies since 1960.
The purpose of the study was to determine the current estimate of the volume of energy to be generated from the dams and the cost involved in the projects.
The study also had the additional objective of preparing what it termed “a bankable” project document suitable for raising funds for the implementation of the projects.
Three separate reports, each titled “Update of Engineering Studies - Hydroelectric Development” and covering each of the three rivers, have been presented to some stakeholders including the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.
Various issues handled in the report were geology, hydrology, energy generation, preliminary environmental assessment, design of work and also implementation of the project.
Early January, this year, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, inspected the potential sites together with Mr William Oppong Bio, the Executive Chairman of Supercare Group Limited, the local representative of Sinohydro Company of China, and Mr Liu Aisheng, an engineer with the company who is working on the Bui Dam project in the Tain District of 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 ??Mporhor?? Wassa East District in the Western Region.
The minister and his entourage also inspected other sites 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.
The construction of the mini dams was mentioned in the 2008 budget statement, as well as the President’s New Year Message on January 1, 2008.

Monday, July 21, 2008

More pregnant women register under free medical care programme (Spread)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah & Gifty Appiah-Adjei (July 18, 2008)
THE National Health Insurance Authority (NIA) has recorded a total of 50,924 pregnant women who have registered under the free maternal health care programme since its inception on July 1, 2008.
At his turn at the meet-the-press series organised by the Ministry of Information and National Orientation in Accra yesterday, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NIA, Mr Ras Boateng, said the figure represented what the authority had so far received from some of the districts.
Statistics presented by Mr Boateng at the programme indicated that the Ashanti Region was leading with 12,164 registered women, followed by the Greater Accra Region with 8,211; the Central Region, 6, 843; the Eastern Region, 5,870; and the Western Region, 5,012.
The rest are the Upper West Region, 3,608; Northern Region, 2,720; Upper East Region, 2,473; Brong Ahafo Region, 2,434; and the Volta Region, 1,589.
The CEO stated that there was the possibility that many of those women would have failed to go for ante-natal care if the policy was not introduced, a situation he observed was likely to create problems for them and their babies.
Ghana introduced a policy of free medical care for pregnant women under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) from July 1, this year.
The policy was announced by President J. A. Kufuor after a trip to the United Kingdom, where the British government pledged £42.5 million to support efforts at reducing maternal mortality as envisaged in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Although the current maternal mortality ratio is unknown, it is estimated to be between 214 and 540 per 100,000 live births.
The maternal mortality ratio indicates the risk of death a woman faces with each pregnancy. In settings with high fertility, such as sub-Saharan Africa, women face this risk many times in their lifetime.
Mr Boateng said under the programme pregnant women would benefit from the ante-natal period to three months after delivery, adding that emergencies during delivery and all other medical problems that would arise within this period would be covered.
He outlined causes of maternal mortality in Ghana as bleeding before and after delivery, hypertension and fits in pregnancy, miscarriage and serious infection, among others.
On neo-natal mortality, Mr Boateng identified low birth weight, abnormalities, respiratory disorders, neo-natal infections, birth trauma and neo-natal jaundice as the causes.
Three pregnant women who had benefited from the programme confirmed that it had eased the financial burden that they previously experienced during pregnancy, adding that some pregnant women had to wait till the seventh month to report for ante-natal care while others fail to go for laboratory tests because of lack of funds.
They expressed their appreciation to the government for the policy, adding that it would lessen their financial burden during pregnancy and also at child delivery.
A documentary shown indicated the enthusiasm with which both health care providers and pregnant women had embraced the policy.
The chairman for the programme, who is also the Deputy Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mr Frank Agyekum, expressed the hope that the policy would help reduce the number of women and children who had to die because of preventable pregnancy-related problems.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Accra HLF Forum for September (Page 38)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah & Gifty Appiah-Adjei.
THE first ever High Level Forum (HLF) on Aid Effectiveness to be held in the developing world is scheduled to take place in Accra between September 2 and 4, 2008.
Dubbed “Accra HLF-3”, the forum, which is the third of its kind, is expected to be attended by about 1,000 participants, including ministers from 100 countries, heads of bilateral and multilateral development agencies, donor organisations and civil society groups from around the world.
The first two forums were held in Rome and Paris in 2003 and 2005, respectively.
At a ceremony in Accra to brief journalists and also to launch the programme ahead of time, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, said the objectives of the Accra HLF were to enable both donors and recipients of aid to take stock of and review progress made in implementing the Paris Declaration, identify challenges and bottlenecks and also look for the necessary actions needed to overcome those challenges.
He said it was also to identify ways to accelerate and scale up the implementation of the aid effectiveness agenda for 2011 and beyond, as well as sustain and enhance political support for doing so, particularly at the country level.
Explaining what the Paris Declaration stood for, the Finance Minister said it was endorsed in 2005 by more than 100 signatories and spelt out the international community’s consensus on the direction for reforming aid delivery and management with the view to making aid more effective and deliver better results.
He reiterated that Ghana received aid from both bilateral and multilateral sources, which were made up of project and programme, the most significant being the Multi-Donor Budget Support (MDBS) system.
Mr Baah-Wiredu observed that the implementation of the MDBS had been mutually fulfilling to both the donors and the government, since it had helped to reduce frequent individual missions and bilateral consultations, the huge cost of negotiating for aid, inconsistency in projects with government priorities, the operation of parallel systems and the unpredictability of funds.
On the benefits to be derived for hosting the forum, the minister said like other international conferences and events which had been held in Ghana, the hosting of the event signified that the world had recognised the country’s political and economic stability.
“By hosting the event on our soil, Ghana has a significant opportunity to present itself to the international community, not only as a dynamic nation that successfully pursues socio-economic reforms in a complex and globalised environment but also as a nation that has effectively managed donor assistance to the ultimate benefit of our citizens,” he observed.
In an answer to a question, the Chief Director of the ministry, Nana Juaben-Boaten Siriboe, said the three-day event would be financed through a special trust fund instituted through the World Bank, in addition to contributions from the European Union (EU), the participating entities and the government of Ghana.
Representatives from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Japan, the Netherlands, Canada and Germany attended the press briefing.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an international organisation of 30 countries that accept the principles of representative democracy and free market economy, is co-ordinating the forum.

Third-tier pension scheme to cover informal sector (Page 21)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE Pensions Implementation Committee has stated that the third-tier voluntary provident fund and personal pension scheme under the proposed three-tier pension scheme is meant to cater for the peculiar needs of workers in the informal sector.
It said the exclusion of the third-tier from the National Pension Reform Bill would defeat the aim of drawing a total of 80 to 85 per cent of informal sector workers into a national pension scheme.
These sentiments were expressed by the Chairman of the committee, Mr T. A. Bediako, when he spoke to the Daily Graphic in reaction to a protest against certain aspects of the National Pension Reform Bill by the Ghana Employers Association (GEA).
The bill caters for the establishment of a new contributory three-tier pension scheme with a National Pension Regulatory Authority to control and oversee the efficient administration of the composite pension scheme.
A story carried by the Daily Graphic on Friday, July 11, 2008 indicated that members of the GEA objected to the inclusion of the proposed third-tier scheme in the bill because they said although the wording of the bill suggested that the third-tier was voluntary, it at the same time included elements of compulsion.
Section 1 of the bill states, “There is established by the act a contributory three-tier pension scheme consisting (a) a mandatory basic national social security scheme; (b) a mandatory fully funded and privately managed occupational pension scheme, and (c) a voluntary fully funded and privately managed provident fund and personal pension scheme.”
Briefing its members, the Executive Director of the GEA, Mrs Rose Karikari Anang, said it was unacceptable for the third-tier to be proposed as a voluntary scheme and be regulated by legislation and, therefore, called for the deletion of Section 1 (c) from the bill.
She said the wording of the bill, as expressed in its spirit, indicated an element of compulsion, in spite of the word ‘voluntary’, adding that “it portrays the fact that every organisation must have a three-tier pension scheme”.
The GEA’s apprehension to the bill stemmed from the fear of the likelihood that workers would take advantage of what she referred to as the inconsistencies in the bill to demand the establishment of all the three different schemes
Mr Bediako drew attention to the fact that the GEA had already sent a petition to the committee and also Parliament, therefore, advised the association to allow the matter to be dealt with dispassionately, now that the bill was before Parliament.
He said the committee had, from the beginning of its work, involved the GEA and other stakeholders such as the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), unionised labour and experts on labour issues where they were allowed to make inputs, adding that Mr Alex Frimpong, an executive member of the GEA, was a member of the legal sub-committee.
He observed that looking at the behaviour of the GEA, it seemed the Pensions Implementation Committee had to embark on more educational programmes to enable the stakeholders to better understand the benefits of the proposed scheme.
For his part, the Project Co-ordinator of the committee, Mr Daniel Aidoo Mensah, said the third tier scheme which will include tax exemption, “will serve as a positive incentive for the scheme members to make additional voluntary contributions to enable accrue more benefits for their retirement”.
He reiterated that it was voluntary, adding that if an organisation decided to introduce it, the employer and his or her employees could deliberate on how best to arrive at a decision that would be acceptable to both parties, since its inclusion was not to create problems for employers.
Meanwhile the Pensions Implementation Committee on Wednesday, held a press briefing in Accra and stated that much as it would not want the third tier to be expunged from the scheme, it had no objection to any change of wording to suit all stakeholders.
The members also took the opportunity to appeal to Members of Parliament (MPs) to “do justice to the bill” since the issue of pension affected everybody.
There have also been separate statements from the leadership of the Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC), the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) and the Civil Servants Association (CSA), welcoming the inclusion of the third tier scheme which they said could meet the social security needs of many working people, especially those in the informal sector.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The beauty of a crowd of Ghanaians (Features Page 23)

Article: Lucy Adoma Yeboah

ON Thursday, July 3, 2008, Ghanaians from all walks of life thronged the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC) to either receive a national award or witness the ceremony where more than 200 distinguished Ghanaian men and women, were honoured.
Notwithstanding the fact that the programme was scheduled to start at 10.00 a.m., I, like many other enthusiastic members of the public, got to AICC around 8.20 a.m. in order to catch every bit of the show, and I did not regret getting there early at all. Though I had no breakfast before leaving for the programme, I got satisfied just looking at so many beautiful Ghanaians.
The scene was splendid. No wonder a colleague of mine, Daniel Nkrumah, reported in the Daily Graphic the next day that “in spite of the controversy surrounding the selection of nominees, this year’s National Honours Awards recorded an impressive patronage as hundreds of Ghanaians turned up at the Accra International Conference Centre for the ceremony.
“The conference centre was packed throughout the ceremony and some guests had to scramble for seats, while others had no option but to stand through the programme.”
The crowd was really impressive, since it comprised the very old, the old, the young and the very young who assembled to either cheer on the award winners or have a glimpse of some of them for the first time.
Among the distinguished personalities who are not often seen in public these days but personally went to receive their awards were Mr Justice Kingsley Nyinah and Mrs Alberta Ollenu.
It was a showpiece of colour, style and traditional regalia as distinguished guests from diverse walks of life and of various nationalities graced the occasion.
Like many other state functions, Kente stole the show and let me quickly add that the type of Kente that people wore on that day, was not the kind of Kente we usually see at other functions. Those were the best of Kente beautifully woven into unique symbols. A casual look at some of them without touching was enough to inform one that he or she would need to contract a master weaver to weave at a special cost.
There was one particular Kente with designs of the porcupine; another one with designs of stools and of umbrellas and also adinkra and other Ghanaian symbols. Also on display were different shades and sizes of fugu, batakari, boubou and expensive suits and ties to match.
On the other side were those who appeared in expensive lace materials sewn into beautiful styles and for those who went for the traditional kaba and slit, their styles were impeccable.
To cut the matter short, let us just say that people appeared in their best.
What actually made me excited was the way the crowd, in spite of the fact that people came from different parts of the country and even abroad, interacted with one another. Like one big family where each person knew the other, the conference centre saw a lot of personal interactions where people freely exchanged conversations, shook each other’s hands, pat one another on the back, hugged those who deserved to be hugged and openly smiled broadly at one another.
The story could not be complete if the three Masters of Ceremony (MCs), Godwin Avenorgbo, good old Mike Eghan and Doreen Andoh were not mentioned. They really contributed to the success of the programme with their sense of professionalism.
Those present at the function and others who watched it live on GBC TV might have observed the way Uncle Eghan “drilled” President Kufuor. The President was on his feet almost throughout the period and considering his age, it is an indication of how strong the man is. Single-handedly, the man was able to decorate all the award winners, shook the hand of each of them and posed for photographs with each one of them.
I said Uncle Mike drilled the President because anytime there was a short break and the “Old Man” made an attempt to sit, Uncle Mike will quickly call him to continue. On all the three occasions that the “Old Man” moved back to take a break, Uncle Mike quickly called him to duty. On the third occasion, the “Old Man” moved slowly and as if he was bypassing Uncle Mike, got closer to him and gave him a gentle knock at his back which sent everybody laughing. In response, Uncle Mike, who had in the previous year received a national award, said he considered the knock as another presidential award and the crowd laughed the more. How beautiful it is for brethren to stay together in peace!
The atmosphere was so much relaxed that when it was time for the group photographs with the award winners, the President moved out from the conference room and freely interacted with a wide range of people. Being about an arms length away from the President, I had a good look at the medal around his neck, (I am referring to the newly instituted Grand Order of the Eagles and Star of Ghana) and it looked beautiful.
The medal consists of a collar, a collar badge, a sash badge and breast star.
My interest was on the collar which holds the badge described in the brochure for the event as a set of insignia comprising a collar consisting 15 alternate 18-carat yellow, gold and adinkra symbols.
The symbols are Akofena, which stands for courage, valour and heroism; Mpatapo, meaning reconciliation, peacemaking and pacification; Wo Nsa Da Mu A... meaning participatory government, democracy and pluralism; and Ese Ne Tekyerema, which stands for friendship and independence.
The rest are: Nyame Biribi Wo Soro, which is a symbol of hope; Gye Nyame, a symbol of the supremacy of God; Bi Nka Bi, meaning peace and harmony; and Katakyie Atiko, which stands for bravery and valour.
The newly instituted Grand Order of the Star and Eagles of Ghana, as symbolised in the nation’s Coat of Arms and meant for Presidents of the Republic, was for the first time presented to President Kufuor by the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood.
In addition, five eminent members of society were awarded the next highest honour, which was the Order of the Star of Ghana (Companion).
They were the Vice-President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama, for Public Service and National Governance; the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, for Traditional Authority and Public Service; Nayiri Naa Bohugu Mahami Shirigu, the Paramount Chief of Mamprugu, for Traditional Authority and Public Service, and Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the flag bearer of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), for National Politics, Advocacy for Human Rights and Rule of Law.
Five others were given the Order of the Star of Ghana (Member). The rest received honours in the Order of the Volta (Companion), the Order of the Volta (Officer), the Order of the Volta (Member) categories and the Grand Medal.
As I sat through the programme, I looked at the faces of the audience and observed that just like me, many of the people assembled there haboured the ambition that one day, they would have the honour of being decorated by a President of the Republic of Ghana.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

3 to fund regional excellence centre project (page 47)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
CANADA, Germany and the World Bank have pledged to fund the establishment of a regional centre of excellence in Accra for the various governing councils of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) within the West African sub-region.
The project, which is expected to begin early next year, will be used as a platform to generate knowledge on the process of peer review within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member countries.
Briefing journalists in Accra after his return from the African Union (AU) Summit in Egypt, the Executive Secretary of Ghana’s National African Peer Review Mechanism Governing Council (NAPRM-GC), Dr Frank Appiah, explained that the decision to choose Ghana for the project was based on the fact that the country’s governing council was noted for its good practices.
He pointed out that so far Ghana was the only country which did not have a minister supervising its APRM activities and, therefore, the governing council operated without any political interference.
He described the APRM system as an innovation which needed all the encouragement to succeed for others to learn from.
The APRM is a process by which individual African countries voluntarily offer themselves to be assessed in a non-partisan manner to identify their strengths, best practices, weaknesses, deficiencies and institutional capacity gaps which are then addressed through a National Programme of Action.
It is supposed to be a people-centred, people-owned and people-led process built on broad-based participation and national consensus by the entire citizenry.
Dr Appiah said out of a total of 53 AU countries, only 29 had so far agreed to be peer-reviewed, adding that countries in the sub-region which had taken the lead in the process were Ghana, Benin, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali and Togo.
He stated that the establishment of the centre of excellence would promote capacity building among governing councils, develop adequate knowledge, link the various councils to universities in the sub-region, promote regional co-operation and link the councils to supporting agencies.
He said in order to achieve its objective of a people-driven programme, Ghana had so far established 46 district oversight committees (DOCs) to promote transparency, accountability and all inclusiveness in the activities of the NAPRM within the communities.
Touching on the political situation in Zimbabwe, Dr Appiah said it would have been easier to deal with the problems if that country had acceded to be peer-reviewed, adding that ordinary Zimbabweans would have had the opportunity to officially complain to the rest of Africa if their country was a party to the process.
He said it would have been difficult for the Zimbabwean government to behave the way it was doing now if it knew that it would be called to account to others outside the country.
Citing Kenya as a case, Dr Appiah said when a similar problem arose in that country, it was easier to be resolved by the rest of Africa because the government was aware that it would have to defend itself among its peers, for which reason it was prepared to find solutions.
The executive secretary stressed that since membership of the APRM was voluntary, it was not possible for any organisation or country to force Zimbabwe or any other country that did not want to take part to do so, adding that the rest of Africa considered the Zimbabwean problem as a southern Africa one and, therefore, expected countries in that part of the continent to show the way.
Dr Appiah took the opportunity to advise all Ghanaians to have interest in the activities of the NAPRM, since it was non-political, adding that which ever government found itself in power would have to present the report on behalf of all Ghanaians in January 2009.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Prof Stiglitz, Govt Review National Dev Plan (Spread)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
AN American Nobel Prize winner in Economics, Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz, has held discussions with government officials in Accra, believed to be centred on the technical review of a National Development Plan for Ghana.
The development plan was drafted by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC).
The meeting, which was held yesterday behind closed doors, is also expected to enable the Ghanaian officials to learn about the Initiative Policy Dialogue (IPD), an economic think tank centre which Professor Stiglitz set up in July 2000 to help developing countries to explore policy alternatives and enable wider civic participation in economic policy making.
Professor Stiglitz, who is recognised around the world as a leading economic educator, has written many books that have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
The IDP is currently collaborating with the African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET) which was set up in 2006 by eminent Ghanaian Economist and former staff of the United Nations, Dr K. Y. Amoako.
Before the closed-door meeting at the conference room of the Ministry of Finance and Economic, Prof. Stiglitz and a team from IPD and ACET had a brief encounter with some government officials in the presence of journalists.
Present at the meeting were the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu; the Minister of State at the ministry, Dr Anthony Akoto Osei; Dr Amoako; and the Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Dr Paul Acquah, and his deputies.
The rest were the heads of the revenue agencies in Ghana, the Ghana Statistical Service, the NDPC, and directors and other senior officials of the Finance Ministry.
In his remarks, Prof. Stiglitz said Ghana, like the rest of Africa, had made some progress in development in spite of the numerous challenges facing the continent and urged Ghanaians to move on.
He touched on the soaring prices of oil and the high price of food and said there was the need for Ghana to put in place measures to check the effects of the high prices of those essential commodities.
The renowned economist commented on the fact that the world as a whole was facing difficult times due to the issues of high prices of oil and food.
Prof. Stiglitz expressed delight at Ghana’s discovery of oil in large quantities and advised the people to learn from the experiences of existing oil producing countries in order not to repeat those mistakes.
For his part, Dr Amoako said the team had plans to bring together the best minds throughout the world to help solve the problem of underdevelopment and expressed appreciation to the government of Ghana for its support to the centre.
Mr Baah-Wiredu said Ghana was ready to exploit all avenues that would benefit its people, adding that there was the need for Ghanaians to take lessons from the Asian countries as to how they managed to build their economies in spite of their problems in the past.
He touched on the energy problems that the country had to grapple with in recent years and said the government was doing all it could to solve it by constructing additional hydro dams and thermal plants and also from other sources.
Prof. Stiglitz was hosted to a dinner on Monday night and chaired a seminar on African Growth at GIMPA.
He was scheduled to meet Ghanaian journalists at the International Press Centre in Accra, hold luncheon meeting with members of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) and also deliver a lecture on “Transforming African Economies: Lessons from Asia” at the British Council Hall, all in Accra, later yesterday.

(Baah-Wiredu pays working visit to Volta Region (Page 21)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, has undertaken a working visit to the Volta Region to inspect the Tema-Sogakofe-Akatsi highway which is under construction.
Accompanying the Finance Minister was his Special Advisor on International Finance and Capital Markets, Dr Kofi Asamoa-Baah.
The Tema-Sogakofe-Akatsi road project, funded by the German government, is considered an important highway because it links Ghana to its eastern neighbours.
At the main construction and mixing site, the contractors assured the minister that work was progressing steadily and was expected to be completed on schedule.
Addressing the workers at the site, Mr Baah-Wiredu expressed satisfaction with the progress made so far, and urged the contractors to work harder to complete the project on time and also on the budget since the highway was one of the main arteries that linked Ghana to its eastern neighbours.
From there, the team visited the cross-border town of Aflao in the Ketu District.
During discussions, a Chief Collector of the Customs, Exercise and Preventive Service ( CEPS) and the second in command at the Aflao Post, Mr Isaac Abbey, expressed dissatisfaction with the poor state of roads in the area, especially at the Ghana side of the border.
He, therefore, appealed to the minister to use his good offices to improve the road as soon as possible since that was a major worry to long-distance drivers on transit through the area.
Mr Baah-Wiredu assured the CEPS officials that the viability of the Aflao border was of great concern to the government because Aflao was not only the largest settlement with the largest economy in the district, but also the busiest border in Ghana.
He assured them that the rehabilitation of the road would be referred to the appropriate agency for quick action, since Aflao generated a lot of revenue for the government.
On the question of staff quarters for CEPS officials, which were started in the late 1970s but had been abandoned for more that 30 years, the minister gave the assurance that there were plans to source funds from Ecobank Ghana Limited to complete the flats for the staff to help boost their morale to enable them undertake effective and efficient revenue mobilisation for the country.
Touching on the issue of seized vehicles, Mr Baah Wiredu charged the CEPS authorities to quickly auction the vehicles that had been gazetted to boost the government’s revenue.
He advised the Ghanaian custom officials to regularly liaise with their Togolese counterparts to ensure better collaboration and stem the increasing tide of smuggling between the two sides.
The team, on its way back home, stopped at the Dabala Border Post where they held fruitful discussions with the CEPS officials stationed at that post.

Picture: A cargo truck moving through the Ghana side of the Ghana-Togo border at Aflao.

Free Pregnancy Care Policy Begins (Front Page)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE Minister of Health, Major Courage Quashigah (retd), has announced a complete take-off of the government’s policy of free medical care for pregnant women under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) from this month.
The policy was first announced by President J. A. Kufuor after a trip to the United Kingdom where the British government pledged £42.5 million to support the government’s efforts at reducing maternal mortality as envisaged in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Speaking at the opening of a two-day National Consultative Meeting on the Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Accra yesterday, Major Quashigah said to make the women enjoy the full benefit of the policy, they were also exempted from the payment of premium under the NHIS.
“We will also waive the three to six months waiting period so that pregnant women can enjoy the services immediately they are registered,” he pointed out.
The Health Minister said since it had been deemed urgent to address the high maternal mortality rate in the country, he had tasked a special team to focus on the strategies to ensure that “we double the coverage of supervised deliveries from the current 35 per cent to 70 per cent” within two years.
He expressed the hope that the policy would help reduce the financial barriers that women faced in accessing healthcare services during pregnancy and delivery.
Major Quashigah added that a monitoring system had been put in place to enable the health sector to identify the bottlenecks in the implementation of the policy and also put in the necessary corrective actions.
The Chairperson of the National Population Council (NPC), Mrs Virginia Ofosu-Amaah, said the meeting was held at a time when the world’s attention was being re-focused on the tragedy of maternal mortality in developing countries.
Mrs Ofosu-Amaah, who was also the chairperson for the occasion, reminded the participants of a conference in September 2000 at which about 190 member countries of the United Nations (UN) signed up to the MDGs which provided a powerful social development for all countries.
She pointed out that the fifth development goal, which was the focus of the two-day consultative meeting in Ghana, aimed at reducing maternal mortality by 75 per cent between 1990 and 2015.
“The concern today is that for countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Ghana, this goal is desperately off track and is most unlikely to be achieved by the target date,” she observed.
She pointed out that there were conflicting figures on the ratio of maternal mortality in the country, adding that as the nation’s institutional records put it at 214 deaths per 100,000 live births, the United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) put the national estimate at 560 deaths per 100,000 live births.
“This means that we do not have a clear awareness of the dreadful magnitude of maternal deaths. Irrespective of which figure one uses, you will agree with me that the levels are deplorable,” she noted.

Monday, July 7, 2008

NYEP denies any crisis meeting

News page 32

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
OFFICIALS of the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP), have denied any crisis meeting which was slated for yesterday between its officials and the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) over the payment of allowances to NYEP beneficiaries.
Reacting to a story in a national daily with the headline “N.Y.E.P Cash Crisis Meeting” published yesterday, Wednesday July 2, 2008, the Deputy National Co-ordinator of NYEP, Mr Seibik Bugri said there was no crisis at the moment to warrant any meeting.
According to him the last time the two institutions held a meeting on the issue of payment of allowances was about three weeks ago.
He said it was unfortunate for such a story to appear now that efforts had been made to quicken the process of paying the beneficiaries through the bank.
Mr Bugri said the issue of delay in payment of the allowances to the beneficiaries had been with the programme since its inception adding that the arrangement with the ADB was a way to ensure early payment of allowances.
He explained that there were problems because funds for payment which came from the District Assembly Common Fund, the National Health Insurance Levy, the Ghana Education Trust Fund, Value Added Tax, and HIPC Fund, were released quarterly making it difficult to pay them on a monthly basis.
The deputy co-ordinator said now that ADB was going to help, the bank would pay the beneficiaries regularly to be reimbursed when the funds from the sources were received.
He expressed the hope that with the introduction of the Communication Service Tax (Talk Tax), where not less than 20 percent of the proceeds would be used to support NYEP, difficulty in payment of allowances was likely to minimise.
He pointed out that more than 120 youth were still waiting to be engaged under the programme and appealed to all Ghanaians to support it since it would help minimise unemployment.
Mr Bugri took the opportunity to appeal to the public to desist from calling people working under the NYEP names but rather appreciate that they were offering good services to the people which they should be recognised and acknowledged for.

Accountant-General workers pledge protect image of dept.

News Page 21
Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
STAFF of the Controller and Accountant-General’s Department (CAGD) have pledged not to knowingly be party to any illegal activities or engage in acts that will bring into disrepute the work of the accounting profession and the CAGD.
They have resolved to perform their work in honesty and diligence in accordance with the financial laws of the country.
These were contained in a communiqué issued after the annual three-day national delegates conference held in Kumasi on the theme, “Meeting the Challenges of the Public Financial Management Reforms”.
In addition, the staff stated that they would provide transparent, timely, client-focused and cost-effective financial management services for the government and the public.
“We shall exhibit the highest level of professionalism in the discharge of our duties and shall perform our work in accordance with generally accepted principles of accounting, financial laws, the standards and guidelines of the CAGD,” they pledged.
In order to the perform creditably, the staff stressed that they would constantly update and make information readily available to all stakeholders.
For its part, the management of department resolved to give a hearing to members of staff who would be suspected to have misconducted themselves before action was taken.
To improve on performance, the management pledged to lay emphasis on the department’s capacity building programmes, adding that it would pursue the establishment of a university college for the staff of the department.
It also touched on the need to sustain and continue to ensure that reports and financial statements were submitted on a timely basis as required by the financial laws and collaborate with the management of district assemblies to enhance good working relations between accounting staff and other staff of district assemblies for better service delivery.
It pointed out that there was the need for better service delivery to the people, since the citizens had the right to determine the services and goods they deserved, especially an efficient and effective financial management system in the public sector.
“The government and citizens of Ghana deserve the delivery of quality good service,” it was observed.

Germany provides €39m to support MGDs

Business page 57
Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah & Hagar Korantemaa

THE German government has provided an amount of €39 million to support Ghana in its quest to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and middle-income status by 2015.
The agreement was signed in Accra by Ghana’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, and the German Ambassador to Ghana, Dr Marius Haas, in the company of officials from the ministry and embassy.
Out of that amount, 38 million Euros is being given out as concessional loan while one million euros, comes as grant.
At a short ceremony on Friday, Mr Baah-Wiredu said the fund was for Multi-Donor Budget Support (MDBS), district development programmes, to assist activities of out-growers and also support value-chain funding.
He said currently the main areas of the bilateral development co-operation between Ghana and Germany were on decentralisation, agriculture and sustainable economic development.
Mr Baah-Wiredu stated that the German government had been of immense help to Ghana over the years and that Germany had contributed about one billion euros for developmental programmes and projects in Ghana since 1957.
The Finance Minister pointed out that aside the the focal areas of Ghana-Germany development co-operation, which was in the area of decentralisation, agriculture and sustainable economic development, German was also supporting the Legal Sector Support Programme and the road sector and cited the rehabilitation of the Tema-Sogakope-Akatsi road.
The minister took the opportunity to appeal to German companies to establish an assembling plant in Ghana for the various German vehicles being used in Ghana, notably Mecedes Benz, BMW and VW.
He also expressed his gratitude to the outgoing Councillor for Development Co-operation at the German Embassy in Accra, Mr Jaochim Schmitt, whose tenure saw Germany’s contribution to Ghana increase from 4.5 million Euros in 2005 to 10 million Euros in 2007.
For his part, Dr Haas said the German government committed 53 million euros to Ghana in 2007 and 2008, which raised the total development co-operation support to Ghana since independence to 1,060 billion euros.
He noted that German considered itself as one of Ghana’s important development partners, and together they had built a long tradition of friendly and trustful relations.
Dr Haas said about 60 per cent of the newly committed funds were used for general budget support and the new funding arrangement on the sub-national level.
He said over the last year, Germany co-chaired the Multi-Donor Budget Support (MDBS) committee with the World Bank and under their leadership, a new framework memorandum was signed.
He pointed out that the new memorandum in the framework “brings Ghana in line with international best practices and sets out a reliable new medium-term perspective”.

Friday, July 4, 2008

College Trains 159 Ghanaian Doctors (page 31)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons has trained 159 Ghanaian doctors in various areas in specialised medical practice at the postgraduate level between 2005 and 2008.
This is line with the its objective of encouraging Ghanaian doctors who would otherwise have travelled abroad in pursuit of further studies to do so locally.
Certificates offered at the college include Diploma, Part I & II (Membership) also Fellowship, all in various areas of medicine.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic, the Rector of the college, Professor Paul Kwame Nyame, revealed that instead of spending about $40,000 to train one doctor in postgraduate studies abroad, the government currently spent $3,000 to train each doctor locally.
He said before the establishment of the college in 2003, Ghanaian doctors had to attend the West African College of Physicians and Surgeons in Nigeria or elsewhere in the developed countries, adding that they usually failed to return after their training.
He stressed that the level of training at the college was comparable with what obtained in similar institutions throughout the world, adding that there were always external examiners from the United Kingdom (UK), South Africa and some other African countries to go through examinations.
The rector explained that in order to avoid mediocrity, medical practitioners had to be accessed thoroughly to gain entry into the college. They also had to pass examinations.
He named some of the courses offered as anaesthesia, child health, family medicine, internal medicine, laboratory medicine, psychiatry and public health.
The rest are radiation, radiology, ear, nose and throat (ENT), oncology, general surgery, obstetric and gynaecology, ophthalmology and dental surgery.
Professor Nyame observed that in addition to the financial gains to the country for offering the training locally, the people of Ghana would continue to enjoy the services of doctors under training at the college, since they would stay at home and offer practical training at various hospitals.
According to the rector, the main objective of the college was to minimise the number of Ghanaian doctors who left the country annually and expressed the hope that its establishment would minimise the trend, as results had already started showing.
“The establishment of the college has helped to encourage many Ghanaian doctors to stay at home and work, since they are assured of opportunities to further their education locally,” he pointed out.
Touching on doctors who were already outside, he expressed the hope that those who travelled outside because of further education would come back home, adding that three of such doctors returned to enrol in the college in 2007.
The Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons was established by an Act of Parliament (Act 635). That was after a group of individuals in the medical profession had advocated a national postgraduate college to provide training for specialists in medicine, surgery and allied specialities.
In pursuance of its objectives, the college, among other things, organises and supervises specialist training, continuous professional development and supports research in medicine, awards diplomas, certificates and professional distinctions and also initiates and participates in activities and discussions aimed at sound health and the formulation of public policies on health.
The college is under the Ministry of Health (MoH).

Peace, My People-President Tells Ghanaians (Front Page)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
PRESIDENT J. A. Kufuor yesterday asked Ghanaians to reach out and inspire one another within the society to contribute to national development, irrespective of ethnic group, religion, gender, social status or political affiliation.
He said with a sense of goodwill towards one another, Ghanaians could develop to their fullest potential.
President Kufuor was speaking at a well-attended National Awards ceremony where 245 men and women who had distinguished themselves over the years in a broad spectrum of disciplines of national life were honoured. A number of foreign nationals who had helped the country in its efforts at national development were among those honoured.
He said the country had reached a stage where the people could not afford to lose focus, neither could they permit themselves to be distracted from their mission.
The award winners included people from academia, public service, health and medicine, statesmanship, science, industry, religion, the security services, the arts, the media, sports and culture.
The event, which was the third since it was re-introduced by the present government in 2006, was on the theme, “Branding Ghana for a Prosperous Future”.
The highest of the honours, the newly instituted Grand Order of the Star and Eagles of Ghana, as symbolised in the nation’s Coat of Arms and meant for Presidents of the Republic, was presented to President Kufuor by the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood.
In addition, five eminent members of society were awarded the next highest honour, which was the Order of the Star of Ghana (Companion).
They are the Vice-President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama, for Public Service and National Governance; the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, for Traditional Authority and Public Service; Nayiri Naa Bohugu Mahami Shirigu, the Paramount Chief of Mamprugu, for Traditional Authority and Public Service, and Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the flag bearer of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), for National Politics, Advocacy for Human Rights and Rule of Law.
Five others were given the Order of the Star of Ghana (Member). The rest received honours in the Order of the Volta (Companion), the Order of the Volta (Officer), the Order of the Volta (Member) categories and the Grand Medal.
All the members of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), including its flag bearer, Professor John Evans Atta Mills, and the Minority Leader, Mr A.S.K. Bagbin, who had been nominated to receive various awards did not attend the ceremony.
Explaining the rationale behind the institution of the Grand Order of the Star and Eagles award, President Kufuor observed that the law establishing the award of national honours did not provide specifically for an Order of the Head of State, which was the highest office of the land.
He said he decided to institute the new honour by the powers vested in him by the Constitution and also after wide consultation to complement the State Sword which was currently the main symbol of office.
“Henceforth, every new President will be given the collar of the order as he or she is sworn into office to be worn on all formal national occasions,” he said, adding that after a completion of the term of office, a President would be presented with a replica of the medal if he or she so desired.
The President said the national awards were first instituted by the nation’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, when Ghana attained a Republican status on July 1, 1960, saying that subsequent leaders had been implementing the policy but sparingly.
He said for one reason or another, some former leaders stayed away from administering the honours, a development which created a backlog of hardworking Ghanaians whose distinguished services should have been acknowledged by the State.
“Over the past three years I have deemed it imperative to try to correct this anomaly around the annual celebration of Republic Day,” he stated.
President Kufuor observed that the country had made outstanding progress during the past decade and half of the period of the Fourth Republic, adding that the last seven years in particular had witnessed a dramatic transformation of the economy and the society from stagnation to steady growth.
“This is evident in the improving standard of living across board. The nation is enjoying positive ratings internationally, which led to the over-subscription of Ghana’s Eurobond to the tune of over US$3 billion on the London Stock Exchange last year,” he stressed.
Touching on the theme for the function, he said it entailed a deliberate effort to improve all areas of weaknesses and maximise benefits to be derived from the hard work, humanity, warmth and resilience of the people, which included “building and strengthening the various institutions of governance to make them strong pillars of our democracy, promote peace and reconciliation, as well as the welfare of the citizens”.
President Kufuor said it was unfortunate that the institution of the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) in 2002 to serve as a starting point of national healing and sense of well-being continued to be spurned with contempt by some particular group of the society.
He said Ghanaians deserved to be happy and governed by enlightened laws deriving from the national Constitution and stressed that the government would continue to uphold laws and apply them to all without fear or favour.
He urged the award winners and the rest of the nation to be champions of peace and reconciliation in order to sustain the steady momentum of the national development.
“This is the legacy I would like to leave behind, and I shall continue to work towards that end till my last day in office and into the future”, he stated.

Ghana Dental Assoc holds Annual Congress (page 44)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah & Hagar Korantemaa (July 3, 2008)
THE President of the Ghana Dental Association (GDA), Dr Eric Asamoa, has painted a disturbing picture of the state of dental health care in the country by stating that there are only 150 dental doctors to take care of a population of more than 20 million people.
He said that gave a ratio of one dentist to about 130,000 Ghanaians. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends one dentist to 80, 000 people.
“This situation is made worse when you realise that about 80 per cent of this number of dentists in Ghana are in the urban areas, mostly in Accra and Kumasi,” he stated.
Dr Asamoa was speaking at the 17th annual congress of the Ghana Dental Association held in Accra last Friday. It was on the theme, “Dentistry in Ghana, Challenges and Concerns” with the objective of reviewing the state of oral health in Ghana and to determine the way forward.
Dr Asamoa observed that the country had become a dumping ground for all manner of oral care products, adding that several of such products that were loudly advertised did not meet the required standards, yet they continued to make the rounds boldly in the country.
Addressing the participants, a Deputy Minister of Health, Dr (Mrs) Gladys Ashitey, said emerging health trends indicated that new medical cases such as oral health were fast becoming more common, hence the need for services to be redesigned to handle such conditions.
Consequently, she said the Ministry had placed oral health as one of the priority areas in the five-year policy objective.
Dr Ashitey said the Ministry recognised oral health needs in the country ranging from human resource to infrastructure and equipment, noting that a recent survey by the office of the Chief Dental Officer indicated a huge gap in the human resource needs of oral health practice in the country.
She said the planned strategic interventions outlined in the Ministry’s programme of work would scale up training of all categories of oral health practitioners in the near future.
In a speech read on his behalf, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Food and Drugs Board (FDB), Mr Emmanuel Agyarko, said research has pointed to a linkage between chronic oral infections and heart and lung disease, diabetes and stroke; as well as premature births and low-birth weight.
He pointed out lack of oral health care could lead to a number of serious health conditions, adding that the situation was more serious in children since it could interfere with their daily activities such as eating, sleeping, learning, playing and also going to school.
Mr Agyarko said many of the recommendations for improving general health could also be applied to improve oral health, adding that there was the need to promote good oral hygiene to prevent tooth decay in the first place.
Speaking on behalf of the sponsors of the conference, Unilever Ghana Limited, the Brand Manager of the company, Nana Yaa Kisi, said Unilever was fully committed to improving oral health of Ghanaians and therefore had been collaborating with GDA over the years.
She said the company had to grapple with a number of challenges in its duty, notably among them was counterfeiting of products, adding that last year several containers of counterfeited Close Up tooth paste destined for Ghana and other neighbouring countries were seized.
As part of the programme, 10 newly qualified dental surgeons were introduced.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

CAGD to Upgrade Training School (Page 11)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
THE Controller and Accountant General’s Department (CAGD) will from the next academic year upgrade its training school at Dansoman in Accra to a degree and diploma-awarding institution.
It will offer training to all public sector accounting staff to enable them to improve upon their performance in their day-to-day activities.
The Director of Training of CAGD, Mr Samuel Doedu, told the Daily Graphic in a telephone interview that the college would be affiliated to the University of Cape Coast (UCC).
He said the management of the institution was currently awaiting accreditation from the National Accreditation Board (NAB) expected to be issued before the 2008/2009 academic year begins in August, 2008.
He explained that the institution was going to be a collaborative effort between the CAGD and UCC, adding that lecturers would come from the two institutions to enable students to gain theoretical as well as practical training in accounting.
“We will ensure that courses offered at the school are relevant to public sector accounting processes and also more practical,” he pointed out.
Mr Doedu said presently rehabilitation work was almost complete at the old school compound to put the existing facilities in good shape to befit a university college.
He expressed the hope that accounting staff in the public sector throughout the country would take advantage of the school and endeavour to improve upon their skills.
In an interview, an employee at the CAGD, who wanted to remain anonymous, welcomed the establishment of the college, adding that it would help them improve upon their ability, which in the long run, would benefit the country.
He observed that many of the cases of alleged misappropriation of state funds levelled against public sector accounting staff could be attributed to mistakes on the part of the affected staff and expressed the hope that if they were offered the opportunity to improve upon their performance, many of such mistakes would be avoided.
The source appealed to the management staff at the various ministries, departments and agencies to provide the needed support to their staff to enable them to take part in programmes to be offered at the college.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Going Down Memeory Lane-As Ghana Marks 48th Republic Day (Page 29)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
Ghanaians are today, July 1, 2008 celebrating the country’s 48th year as a republic.
The day, which marks the climax of Ghana’s process towards political autonomy from Great Britain, is celebrated as a statutory public holiday and Ghanaians are expected to observe it as such.
As part of the celebration, the day has also has been set aside annually to celebrate senior citizens comprising mainly retired public servants for their contributions towards the development of the country.
President J, A. Kufuor has for three successive years, given National Awards to deserving individuals to mark the day.
For this year’s event, the President has nominated a total of 241 persons for National Awards to be held tomorrow, July 3, 2008 at the Accra International Conference Centre.
The Awards are in the following categories: Grand Order of the Star and Eagles of Ghana (for Presidents of the Republic of Ghana), Order of the Star-Companion, Order of the Star-Member and Order of the Volta - Companion.
The rest are Order of the Volta - Officer, Order of the Volta - Member and Grand Medal.
Since the country attained republic status in 1960, the transformational process in Accra, the nation’s capital has been phenomenal as the city has witnessed a lot of landmark changes, reports Rebecca Quaicoe Duho
Presently, Accra can be described as choked as buildings comprising houses, offices and shops have sprung up everywhere.
Whereas some of these landmarks have been properly planned and well demarcated to make way for easy access, some have also been built haphazardly especially, in densely populated areas leading to the creation of slums within the city.
As part of Ghana's Republic Day celebration, the Daily Graphic spoke to a veteran “Accra Boy”, Mr John Allotei Kofi, a lawyer who has lived all his life in Accra and knows the nooks and crannies of the Capital City.
Reminiscing on how Accra used to look like before and just after independence, he said most of the places that are now developed, in the 40's were open spaces and mentioned some places such as the Independence Square where he said was a sea front, the Graphic Road which started from the Railway Station and said apart from the Accra Brewery Ghana Limited, the whole stretch of the main Graphic Road up to Abgobloshie was a high ground and was filled with wild mangoes and, therefore, the area was referred to as “mango line”.
Communities such as Adabraka, Agbogbloshie, Awudome Estate and Kaneshie he said were small settlements as compared to their vast sizes now and the Kwame Nkrumah Circle area was non-existence and that the whole area was water logged up to Avenor a condition which he said enabled people to fish around the Joy FM area.
Accra was a free flowing area to the extent that according to Mr Kofi, one could drive on the High Street which was one of the few colonial roads in the capital, to Nigeria or Benin. The whole stretch according to him was filled with coconut trees.
Unlike today where the High Street is filled with shops, offices and houses, he said people were restrained from erecting permanent structures along the sea and the only solid buildings that one would come across when driving from the Osu-Re end of the road along the beach through to the High Street was the Christian Borg Castle, the Customs Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) building and the Light House.
Korle-Gonno which is now one of Accra's densely populated areas, was filled with coconut trees which were lined-up along the beach. Also the beaches along Labadi, Nungua and Teshie were filled with coconut trees and the three communities which today are joined together, were sparsely located back in the 1940's.
The Sempe Town which is near the Light House in Accra according to Mr Kofi was the centre of activities in Accra. Sempe had all the big European shopping centres and it stretched from the Light House up to the present Standard Chartered Bank which was then known as the Barclays Bank of West Africa.
The Holy Trinity Cathedral which was built later was the site for the Bishop Boys School and the present location of the Bank of Ghana was the Methodist Girls School.
The location where the Accra Magistrate Court is presently situated was a well equipped community centre which was built around 1947 and 1948 and 'big entertainment events' were held there.
There were also places in Sempe such as the Brazil House and the Azuma House which was also known as the Ga Mantse We, a private house where the Ga Mantse lived and according to him, in 1949 when the then Asantehene, Agyeman Prempeh visited Accra for the first time, a reception was held at the house in his honour.
The Ministry area which is currently housing most of the country's public services buildings, was a play ground where national and inter-school sports were held and where people also played cricket and other international sports.
The Old Parliament House according to him was built by Governor Arnold Hudson as a memoriam for King George and hosted big entertainment such as dances, concerts and variety shows.
Makola he said was the end of Accra and WATO, which is a popular spot in Accra near the Post Office, was the last landmark one could come across.
Dzorwulu according to him in the 40s was a big gorge where water collected from the Aburi Hills in those days and according to Mr Kofi, Dzorwulu started from the present area known as Abavana near Kotobabi.
Giving a brief history of Legon, he said the place was named as such because it was a mountainous area and the Madina community which had then not been formed was the collecting point of water coming from the mountain.
Mr Kofi said most places in Accra were full of reeds which showed that they were water logged areas but said today these areas have become homes for thousands of people in Accra.
The Railway Line which was then located at the present State Transport Corporation (STC) area, the Industrial Area through to Alajo, Kotobabi and Dzorwulu were soggy areas where people could not live and according to him the Railway Quarters was located around the STC area but it had to be relocated after a massive downpour about 40 years ago
Mr Kofi who is also the Chief of Ngleshie Amanfro and is known as Nii Kofi Agyenkwa III in going down memory lane said when he was growing-up there were not many places to while away the time but was quick to add that the few that were present were places that one could enjoy ones-self.
With nostalgic feelings, he mentioned places such as the Seaview Hotel near the Light House on the Accra High Street, the Avenida Hotel on the Kojo Thompson Road, Weekend in Havana Club at Korle Gonno, LIDO at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle and the Lisbon Hotel at the Airport as some of the 'joints' where people could sit after a hard days work and enjoy their chilled beer, meat (kebab) and local and continental dishes as well as good music.
On Night clubs and cinemas, he mentioned the Kalamazoo at Osu Estates, the Accra Roger Club on the High Street, Jacks Cafe at Osu and the Regal, Roxy and the Rex Cinemas as places where people could go to.
On Shops he mentioned the Kingsway (UAC) which sold expensive ladies and gents wear and perfumes, SCOA Motors for Dodge and other American cars and the Scottish Mission Printing House located at the Ussher Fort, where all text books and office stationery were printed.
On hospitals, Korle-Bu was located at the present site of the Lotteries building and it was a general hospital. The Children's Hospital before independence has been functioning with some private hospitals such as the Morton Hospital at Adabraka and some few others complementing their efforts.