Monday, November 10, 2008

NCCE Takes Us to Electoral School (Page 27)

ON December 7, this year, Ghanaians will once again have the opportunity to elect a new president and Members of Parliament (MPs) to handle the affairs of the nation.
In spite of the fear being experienced by some people based on stories of election-related violence from some African countries, majority of Ghanaians are excited and anxiously looking forward to the election day. Excited because they surely believe that once again, Ghanaians will go through the process in such a manner that the rest of the world will have nothing to say but to salute .
But can anybody blame those who are apprehensive and have the feeling that some nasty thing could come out of the election? Some of us believe that group of people might be right since there are already instances to indicate that not all Ghanaians are peace loving after all.
It is significant to note that in recent times there have been alleged cases of murders, arson as well as physical and verbal attacks, all in the name of politics. What is making the situation tense is the fact that each of the two main political parties, namely the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) are bent on winning at all cost. While the two presidential candidates talk about the need for peaceful elections, their followers by their actions and pronouncements promise us “fire and brimstone” on a daily basis.
That is the reason why all peace-loving citizens together with many recognised institutions are working hard towards free and fair elections, come Sunday, December 7. One such institution which has a constitutional backing to educate the public on their civic rights and responsibilities is the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE). To achieve that objective, the commission has compiled some tit-bits to help guide us before, during and after the elections.
In its opening statement, the NCCE observed that peace is priceless and nothing should therefore, be done to compromise the relative peace Ghanaians are currently enjoying.
Another important advice the commission gave was that those politicians bent on winning at all cost should note that politics is not a do -or- die affair and should therefore relax and allow things to go on in a normal way without pushing the whole country into political turmoil.
The important thing that the NCCE touched on is that all that is expected of Ghanaians under the circumstance is that on December 7, 2008, all registered voters should go to their respective polling centres and vote peacefully since “we are one nation, one people with one common destiny”.
A portion of the compilation stated that: “Make election 2008 peaceful, vote and let your vote be counted. Election 2008 should be free, fair, transparent and peaceful. Peaceful elections is what every Ghanaian wants, so be just, fair and kind to your opponent”.
Some Election Offences
It is important for voters to note that it is an offence for one to have his or her name occurring twice in the register of voters.
It is also illegal to vote or attempt to vote more than once in the same election; to remove any notice lawfully exhibited in connection with an election; to be in possession of a ballot box or to tamper or interfere in any way with a ballot box or its contents.
It is an offence to give or receive money, a gift, a loan or something of value before or after an election in order to induce a voter to vote or not to vote in a certain way.
Registered voters should note that it is criminal to impede or prevent a voter from freely exercising his or her vote, to disclose information about whom a voter is about to vote for or has voted for or in any way to breach the secrecy of the vote.
While in the process of voting, it is wrong for one to display his or her marked ballot paper in such a way as to make the candidate being voted for known to others. Voters are not supposed to wear or display any symbol or emblem (including items of clothing) indicating support for a particular party or candidate 24 hours to and or on voting day as well as make a speech or sing a song, or beat a gong-gong or a drum, in support of a political party or a candidate 24 hours to as well as on elections day.
To prevent a situation where people would get drunk and for that matter disturb the peace during election, it is considered an offence for anybody to sell intoxicating liquor within 500 metres of a polling station on the polling day.
To maintain peace, voters have been advised to respect all officials managing elections at the various polling stations throughout the country.
Voters are also advised to respect those they meet at polling stations which include the Presiding Officer, Polling Assistants, political party agents as well as the security personnel stationed at the stations.
It is also important for all Ghanaians to note that political party executives or political party supporters are not part of the administration of elections and should therefore not try to act as such.
What is expected of registered voters as they go to their various polling stations is patiently wait for their turn should they meet a queue.
Voters are advised to be patient and peaceful at their polling stations. When they receive their ballot paper, ensure that they thump print properly against the photograph and the political party symbol of their preferred candidate and drop them in the appropriate box.
All things being equal, voting is supposed to starts at 7.00 a.m. and end at 10p.m. Ballot papers will be counted when polling ends at 5.00 p.m. and results will be announced at the individual polling stations immediately after counting of votes ends.
When all registered voters go by these simple rules accordingly, Ghanaians will have nothing but peaceful elections where both the winner and loser would accept the results as being the voice of the people.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Workers to move to 3-tier pension scheme-It's automatic for those below 55 years (Page 3)

Saturday November 8, 2008

Workers aged below 55 and currently on the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) will automatically move to the new three-tier pension scheme when the Pension Bill is given presidential assent.
However, workers aged 55 and above will be exempted but they will have the option of joining if they so wish.
The Pension Reform Bill, which has already been passed by Parliament, is supposed to offer workers a better pension package.
When assented to, the bill will introduce a contributory three-tier pension scheme and establish a National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA) to oversee the administration and management of registered pension schemes and the trustees of registered pension schemes.
Under the new scheme, a reconstituted SSNIT will manage the basic national social security scheme to cater for the first tier of the contributory three-tier scheme, in addition to the establishment of the second compulsory tier and the third voluntary tier pension schemes.
These were made known by the Project Consultant of the Pension Reform Implementation Committee, Mr Daniel Aidoo-Mensah, at a public lecture organised by the Actuarial Society of Ghana on the new three-tier pension scheme in Accra.
The Actuarial Society of Ghana is a professional body of actuaries who are employed in the financial services industry, especially in insurance and pension. It was formed in 1996 and has a membership of 100.
Speaking on the topic, “Overview of Pension Reforms in Ghana — The Three-Tier Structure”, Mr Aidoo-Mensah said the new scheme would decentralise public sector pension management to help to minimise the current hardships encountered by pensioners who had to travel to Accra to receive their pensions.
On the necessary transitional arrangements when the new law was introduced, he said Cap 30 was found to be unsustainable and, therefore, it would be phased out within four years from the commencement of the new scheme.
Mr Aidoo-Mensah said no new entrants would join Cap 30 when the law came into being and explained that the Controller and Accountant-General’s Department would continue to administer and pay gratuities and pensions to those who would remain on Cap 30 while it lasted.
Speaking on, “The Basic National Social Security Scheme”, Mr Theophilus Afenya of the Actuarial Department of SSNIT said as Ghana was currently undergoing systemic pension reforms, some of the issues which needed to be explained were the shape of the first tier, the size of the pillars, the financing of the existing pension debt, as well as measures to keep administrative costs as low as possible.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Germany to assist Ghana to Improve Rail system (Page 31)

GERMANY has affirmed its preparedness to assist Ghana to improve its railway system by signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the government of Ghana in Accra.
The leader of a delegation from Germany, Dr Otto Weisheu, who is also a member of the management board of the Bureau of Economic and Political Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany, signed on behalf of his government, while Ghana’s Minister of Harbours and Railways, Professor Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi, signed for Ghana.
Present at the meeting were Ghana’s Ambassador to Germany, Mr Grant Ohemeng Kesse; the Vice President/Regional Director of Africa Mobility Network Logistics DB International of Germany, Dr Emile Muvunyi, officials from the German Embassy in Ghana, the Ministry of Harbours and Railways, the Ghana Railways Company and the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA).
The MoU will pave the way for the German Railways Company (Deutsche Bahn AG) to begin feasibility studies and cost calculation and determine steps to be taken for the realisation of the modernisation on the railway system in Ghana.
In August this year, the German Railways Company expressed interest in assisting Ghana to improve on and modernise its railway system and Dr Weisheu, at that time, led a delegation to break the news to President John Agyekum Kufuor who was on a two-day visit to Germany.
The offer of help came barely 24 hours after the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, had pledged, during bilateral talks with President Kufuor, to encourage more investment flow from her country to Ghana.
At the signing ceremony in Accra on Tuesday, Prof Ameyaw-Akumfi said there was every indication to believe that unlike previous agreements, the latest MoU with the government of Germany would yield positive results.
He said the government had, since it took over power in 2001, tried to get investors to help in the railway sector, adding that the government would be happy to begin the project before it left office in January 2009.
He expressed his appreciation to the German government for accepting to come to assist Ghana and stated that improvement on the railway system would help lessen the transportation problems facing some Ghanaians.
For his part, Dr Weisheu said Germany appreciated the importance Ghana attached to rail transport and was, therefore, willing to help in that direction.
He announced that the German Railways Company was determined to come in with the needed technical expertise and funding and expressed the hope that when the project was implemented, it would help link many areas of the country where natural resources and agricultural produce abounded.

Nation honours farmers today ( Back Page)

Story: Lucy Adoma Yeboah
GHANAIANS from all walks of life, including President J.A. Kufuor, will turn out in large numbers at the Techiman Methodist School Park today to celebrate the achievements of the country’s farmers at the 24th National Farmers Day.
The theme for the occasion is : “Globalisation: its effects on agricultural production in Ghana”.
Unlike previous years when the day was declared as a statutory public holiday, the Ministry of the Interior has explained that although this year’s National Farmers Day will be observed today, the day will not be a public holiday.
The National Farmers Day, which was instituted in 1984, falls on the first Friday of December each year in which case this year’s celebration should have taken place on December 5.
The observance of the day this year has to be shifted to November 7 in view of the forthcoming national elections, which fall on Sunday, December 7, 2008.
In a statement issued earlier, the ministry, however, said December 5, 2008, the statutory Farmers Day this year, remained a public holiday.
On this occasion, the nation recognises the vital role farmers and fishermen play in the economy, especially the highly commendable output of farmers and fishermen in 1984, which was about 30 per cent growth, after the bad agricultural years of 1982 and 1983.
The National Farmers Day is, therefore, celebrated to motivate farmers and fishermen to produce more.
The first National Farmers Day was celebrated on December 6, 1985 at Osino in the Eastern Region.
The package for the best national farmer then comprised only a pair of wellington boots and a preset radio. Since then the value of the awards has improved from year to year, moving from bicycles to power tillers to tractors, then to pickups and finally to a three-bedroom house since 2002.
Despite the day not being a holiday, the focus of the nation is expected to shift to the commercial town of Techiman, where President J.A. Kufuor will address the Farmers Day for the last time as the Head of State.
A number of institutions, both public and private, have donated various sums of money and items through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) toward the celebration.
However, the government, just as it had done in previous years, will, on behalf of the people of Ghana, present the ultimate prize to the Best National Farmer as a form of appreciation to the winner and motivation to others in the agricultural sector.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Saudi loan approve for Bolga Hospital (Back Page)

A LOAN agreement for US$12 million was yesterday signed between the Government of Ghana and the Saudi Fund for Development to assist in financing rehabilitation and expansion works at the Upper East Regional Hospital in Bolgatanga.
The agreement was signed on behalf of the Government of Ghana by the Minister of State at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, and the Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of the Saudi Fund for Development, Mr Yousef I. Al-Bassam.
At the ceremony, Dr Osei said the government of Ghana would provide additional $2.05 million to support the implementation of the project.
He said the objective of the project was to support the government’s policy under the Health Sector Implementation Programme of constructing, rehabilitating and expanding fixed, as well as mobile health facilities through effective means in the deprived regions of the country.
Dr Osei noted that the rehabilitation of the Bolgatanga Hospital was a manifestation of that initiative, especially for the people of the Upper East Region.
Dr Osei observed that, the government and various institutions in Saudi Arabia had always been good to Ghana adding that in 1999, the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa granted a loan facility of $4.1 million to Ghana for the first phase of the project and followed it up with an additional $1.2 million in 2003 to address a funding shortfall.
On his part, Mr Al-Bassam said in addition to the Bolgatanga Hospital, the Saudi Fund had previously participated in the financing of eight other developmental projects in the various sectors with more than $90 million.
He said the agreement showed the great interest the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had in supporting sincere and continued efforts of the government of Ghana in promoting the well being and economic prosperity of the people of Ghana.
A deputy Minister of Health, Mr Abraham Dwoma Odoom, said the ministry had taken steps to commence the implementation of the project from December, 2008.

Govt to pay arears of workers by Friday (Spread)

THE government has announced that all arrears due workers on the national payroll will be paid by next Friday, November 7, 2008.
It has also suspended the recovery of payment from workers who were overpaid in previous months until proper investigations have been conducted into the issue.
The payment of arrears will be made to teachers whose salaries were withheld when they went on unauthorised industrial action in October last year but were pardoned by the President.
The rest are arrears due some workers before the commencement of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Database II (IPPD II) spanning June to October 2006, as well as workers who have been receiving negative pay, zero pay or payments far below their actual salaries.
These were made known in Accra yesterday by the Controller and Accountant-General, Mr Christian Tetteh Sottie, at a press conference.
Present at the conference were the Minister of State at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, the Deputy Minister, Professor George Gyan Baffour, as well as some senior officials of the Controller and Accountant-General’s Department (CAGD).
Mr Sottie took the opportunity to apologise to workers who had negatively been affected, adding that the problems with the IPPD II had been resolved.
He said to beef up the ICT unit of the department, a deputy controller who was an expert in ICT had been employed to help.
“Workers will, from November 2008, start seeing better results,” he gave the assurance.
In an answer to a question, Mr Sottie said the decision to suspend the recovery process was not political but rather a decision to correct an earlier mistake, adding that the law did not allow that a worker be paid less than 50 per cent of his or her actual salary by the end of each month.
For his part, Dr Akoto Osei said to get the best payroll system for Ghanaian workers, there was currently a back up to the computerised system, adding that if need be, a third system would be acquired to further resolve the problems with salaries.
He pointed out that the issue of workers’ salaries was considered important to the government, hence the instruction from the President to the ministry to find a solution to the anomalies associated with the payroll.
Dr Akoto Osei said unless there was evidence that someone intentionally did something to cheat the system, there was no need to apportion blame as to why there were problems with the system.
Prof Gyan Baffour said the government was right to suspend the recoveries until a decision had been taken as to how to go about them.
The chairman for the programme, who is also the Deputy Minister for Information and National Orientation, Mr Frank Agyekum, expressed gratitude, on behalf of the government, to all the affected workers for their patience.

Ghana hosts workshop on anti-malarial drugs (Back Page)

A five-day international workshop on the safety, quality and efficacy of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended anti-malarial medicine within the sub-region has opened in Accra.
The workshop, which dealt specifically with the WHO recommended Artemisinim Combination Therapy (ACT) for the treatment of malaria, was attended by regulators of pharmaceutical products and manufacturers from five English-speaking West African countries, namely, Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and The Gambia.
The workshop is aimed at helping local pharmaceutical companies in capacity building to enable them to produce ACTs by WHO standards.
Currently, all African countries have officially changed malaria treatment policies from chloroquine mono-therapy to ACTs, and since many of them are recipients of the Global Fund, they are required to purchase ACTs from manufacturers and suppliers which are certified by WHO.
In his remarks, a representative from the WHO headquarters, Dr Milan Smid, said ACTs represented a category of essential anti-malarials for which a complex regulatory evaluation of quality, safety and efficacy was needed because of the combination of active principles.
Dr Smid pointed out that as local manufacturers of ACTs increased and new combination products were submitted, it was critical that both manufacturers and national regulatory authorities had the tools to develop good quality dossiers to evaluate them effectively for the safety of the people.
He said the WHO contributed to the increased availability of ACTs by including them in the prequalification programme initiated by the United Nations and expressed the hope that the workshop would provide participants with adequate information on the programme to enable them to benefit from the programme.
Addressing the participants, a Deputy Minister of Health, Dr (Mrs) Gladys Norley Ashitey, said the quality of pharmaceutical products should not be compromised under any circumstance.
According to her, the circulation of substandard and counterfeit medicines did not only threaten the safety of patients but also undermined healthcare delivery which was vital in reducing morbidity and restoring health.
She said to achieve the desired objective, the government of Ghana had, over the past eight years, stepped up its support for the Food and Drugs Board (FDB) to strengthen its capacity to enable it to ensure that quality medicines were provided for Ghanaians.
The chairman for the programme, who is also the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the FDB, Rev Jonathan Martey, said problems relating to the safety and quality medicines existed in many countries, adding that some incidents had ended in tragedy, with children being the most vulnerable.
He identified the causes of such incidents as the use of medicines containing toxic substances or impurities, as well as medicines whose claims had not been verified, among others, and, therefore, called for effective medicine regulation to ensure safety, quality and efficacious medicine for the benefit of all.