Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"Factors us in education reforms"

THE Book Publishers’ Association says it will appreciate it if its members, who are major stakeholders in education, will be involved in any decision by the government on the educational reform to enable the association make its input, as well as the necessary preparation.
It said should it become necessary for the curriculum or the textbooks to be changed, the association should be informed early to enable its members to have enough time to work, since their businesses tended to suffer anytime there was a change in the country’s educational system.
The association complained that its members were usually not involved when such decisions were taken but they were called at short notice to publish new textbooks in line with those changes, a process which needed huge capital investment and adequate human resource.
It said, for example, that it was only last year that the government contracted some members of the association to develop textbooks for the four-year senior high school system which they had completed and begun distributing.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday, the President of the association, Mr Elliot Agyare, said it was unfortunate that publishers had to go through so much strain to develop new curriculum for schools only for it to be changed after a short while.
He was reacting to a Daily Graphic story which quoted the Minister of Education designate, Mr Alex Tettey-Enyo, as saying that one of the first things the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government was likely to do in the educational sector was abolish the four-year duration of the senior high school (SHS) and revert to the earlier three-year programme.
In another development, a lecturer at the University of Ghana, Professor Kofi Agyekum, has said the frequent changes in the country’s educational system tend to affect students who always suffer because of changes in syllabi.
Speaking on Peace FM’s morning show, “Kokrokoo”, yesterday, Prof Agyekum appealed to the new government to allow the four-year system to run for at least five years when the first batch of students would have entered university.
He said since the first batch was to enter the university in 2010, it would be difficult to determine whether the system was an improvement on the previous one or not before we could talk of changing it and added that there was the need for us as a country to have patience for certain things.
Commenting on the argument that the four-year duration would put a lot of stress on parents and heads of second-cycle institutions, Prof Agyekum said parents should be prepared to offer the best opportunities for their children.
He stressed that the cost of better education at the second-cycle level, which was the foundation, should not be an issue and revealed that there were some pre-schools which charged even higher than many second-cycle schools, as well as the universities.
He noted that parents should do well to pay for the additional year if that was what would help make their children better humans in future.

Health insurance premium remains the same (page 3)

THE National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) says the yearly premium to be paid under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) remains between GH¢7.20 and GH¢48, not GH¢150 as is being speculated.
According to the NHIA, there had been no upward adjustment in the premium since the introduction of the scheme in 2004.
This was made known by the Media Relations Manager of the NHIA, Mr Kwasi Acquah, in reaction to reports making the rounds that the yearly premium for the NHIS had increased to about GH¢150.
The media relations manager advised the public to ignore such reports, since insurance premiums were determined by the various mutual schemes, in conjunction with the authority, adding that the authority had not effected any such change.
He explained that although the individual district mutual health insurance schemes (DMHIS) were autonomous in their operations, the law did not allow them to take decisions concerning premiums on their own but that they had to liaise with the authority on such an important issue.
Article 34 (1) of the National Health Insurance Act of 2003, Act (650) states, "A person seeking membership of a district mutual health insurance scheme shall as a prior condition for membership pay the membership contribution determined by the scheme in accordance with guidelines provided by the council."
Mr Acquah pointed out the premiums payable under the NHIS were fixed with different social groupings in mind, adding that people paid according to their economic status.
In one of its educational materials, the NHIA has enumerated the different contributions payable by the various social groupings and states that adults who are unemployed and do not receive any identifiable and constant support from elsewhere for survival are considered "core poor" and are, therefore, offered free services under the scheme.
It adds that adults who are unemployed but receive identifiable and constant financial support from sources of income are considered "very poor" and are made to pay GH¢7.20 per year.
Another group of people who also have to pay GH¢7.20 are adults who are employed but receive low returns for their efforts and are unable to meet their basic needs. They are considered "poor" under the NHIS.
Under the scheme, adults who are employed and are able to meet their basic needs are considered "middle income" earners and have to pay GH¢18 per year as premium.
The rich are "adults who are able to meet their basic needs and some of their wants" and they are expected to pay GH¢48, just as adults who are able to meet their basic needs and most of their wants. This group of people is considered "very rich".

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Parliament must accept blame — Austin Gamey (Front Page)

A consultant who helped to draft the Chinery-Hesse Report on presidential ex gratia and other end-of-service benefits has asked Members of Parliament (MPs) to accept blame for the confusion the package has generated and find ways of resolving it.
Mr Austin Gamey, the consultant, who had previously served as MP for eight years, said it was up to Parliament to have taken into consideration the current economic conditions before giving its approval to the recommendations.
In his view, it would do the legislators and the nation a lot of good if they accepted the fact that due diligence was not done to the process of studying the package before it was approved, instead of pleading alibi and shifting blame.
He said looking at the volume of public outcry that had greeted the announcement, it would be better for the leadership of both the Majority and the Minority sides in Parliament to come up with a joint motion that would enable them to have a second look at the issue.
Mr Gamey, who is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Pulse Institute Africa, said because of his knowledge of labour and related matters, he was invited by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), together with 10 other consultants, in 2006 to work for the committee.
He explained that the Chinery-Hesse Committee started its work between 2004 and 2005, adding that he helped it by supplying the members with some relevant information that included materials from the Greenstreet Committee to be factored into the current report.
The former MP, who served on the ticket of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), said Parliament was a body that could regulate itself and advised that since the House, as well as the Executive, was there to serve the people of Ghana, the two should be prepared to listen to the complaints of the citizenry and act accordingly.
After the final report on emoluments for constitutional office holders from the Chinery-Hesse Committee had been made public, some MPs expressed shock at its content, just like some members of the public, although the MPs were reported to be in the House when the report was adopted on January 6, 2009.
Some of them said although they had taken part in the closed-door sitting that adopted the final report, they had not been made aware that it contained emoluments for ex-presidents.
A report in the Daily Graphic of yesterday indicated that although some MPs had denied knowledge of the adoption of the final report, investigations had revealed that the report had been adopted by the House just before the Fourth Parliament was dissolved on January 6, 2009.
It came out that the report had been adopted during a closed-door session of the day’s sitting, during which many MPs from both sides of the then Parliament were present.
Some of the MPs who were present, however, argued that they had not been aware of that aspect of the report that spelt out the emoluments for ex-President J.A. Kufuor and other future ex-presidents.
The Deputy Majority Leader, Mr John Akologu Tia, revealed to the Daily Graphic that because the House had been in a hurry for a ceremony to dissolve Parliament and also the fact that MPs had been anxious to know about their ex gratia, when that portion of the report was read to them they hurriedly adopted the report, only to know later that it also contained the emoluments for ex-presidents.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Govt budget to be ready in February (Spread)

THE first budget under the Mills administration is expected to be ready by February 15, 2009.
The document would then be submitted to Cabinet for approval and subsequently to Parliament for presentation by March.
This was made known by the Director of Budget at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kwabena Adjei-Mensah in an interview in Accra.
Mr Adjei-Mensah said preparatory work to get a budget for the year had already begun, adding that the personnel at the ministry were poised to complete the work in accordance with a timetable presented to the ministry by the Sub-committee on Finance within the transitional team.
He said the timetable indicated that Cabinet would be in place by the time the budget would be ready, to enable the group study it before its submission to Parliament.
At a meeting with members of the Parliamentary Press Corp in Accra on Tuesday, the Vice-President, Mr John Dramani Mahama, gave hint that the Mills administration would present its first budget by March, this year.
During the interview, the Director of Budget said there had been meetings between officials of the ministry and the three-member team appointed by the President, to take temporary responsibility for the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to deliberate on the issue.
The team, which has now moved to the ministry from its base at the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC), is led by the Agbogbomefia, Togbe Afede XIV. The other members are Mr Moses Asaga, a former Deputy Finance Minister and Dr Kwame Duffour, a former Governor of the Bank of Ghana (BoG).
A visit at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning by the Daily Graphic in Accra on Wednesday indicated that the three-man team was in a meeting with senior public officials at the ministry.
In an interview, the spokesperson for the transitional team, Ms Hannah Tetteh, confirmed that preliminary work on the budget had begun.
She said since much of the preparatory work was usually done by the technocrats at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, members of the sub-committee were expected to make the necessary inputs on behalf of the government at the initial stage.
She, however, stated that a substantive Finance Minister would be appointed in due course to supervise the final work of the budget to make sure that it reflected the policy of the new government.
Government business is currently being run on a financial statement prepared earlier by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to enable the new administration operate smoothly till it comes out with its own.
A former Minister of State at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Anthony Osei-Akoto, laid before Parliament the expenditure in advance of appropriation for January to March 2009 and the estimates of revenue and expenditure of the government for the 2009 fiscal year.
The then First Deputy Speaker, Mr Freddie Blay, referred the paper to the Finance Committee of Parliament for consideration. It was later approved by Parliament.
Meanwhile, the President has directed that until substantive ministers are appointed, ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) are not to make any payments or enter into any contract for purchases.
That was made known by the Presidential Spokesperson, Mr Mahama Ayariga, who said at a press briefing in Accra that, “Any emergencies should be refereed to the Office of the President.”
The President said further that all non-statutory payments, including all cheques deposited with the banks but not yet cleared, should be referred to the Office of the President for approval.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Council of State has no role ... In appointing ministers (Page 3)

UNDER the Ghana’s 1992 Constitution, the Council of State plays no specific role in the nomination and appointment of ministers, contrary to views that there should be a Council of State in place for the President, Professor J.E.A Mills, to consult before appointing his ministers.
Enquiries made at some Regional Co-ordinating Councils (RCC) confirmed this and showed that although elections for regional representatives for the Council of State, under President J. A. Kufuor’s administration, took place around June, 2001, appointment of Cabinet Ministers came much earlier.
Beside the 10 regional representatives, certain individuals who are appointed by the President, in consultation with Parliament, to form the Council include a former Chief Justice, a former Chief of Defence Staff of the Ghana Armed Forces and a former Inspector General of Police (IGP).
The President of the National House of Chiefs is also mandated by the constitution to belong to the council as well as 11 other members to be appointed by the President.
Article 70 (1) of the constitution which deals with the Council of State indicates that “The President shall, acting in consultation with the Council of State, appoint (a) the Commissioner for Human Rights Administrative Justice and his deputies; (b) the Auditor-General and (c) the District Assembly Common Fund Administrator”.
Other appointments to be made in consultation with the Council of State are the chairman and other members of (i) the Public Services Commission; (ii) the Lands Commission; (iii) the governing bodies of public corporations; (iv) a National Council for Higher Education, howsoever described; and (e) the holders of such other offices as may be prescribed by this constitution or by any other law not inconsistent with this constitution.
In addition, Article 70 (2) indicated that the President shall, acting on the advice of the Council of State, appoint the chairman, the deputy chairmen and other members of the Electoral Commission (EC).
On the appointment of ministers, Article 78 (1) states that “Ministers of State shall be appointed by the President, with the prior approval of Parliament from among members of Parliament or persons qualified to be elected as Members of Parliament, except that the majority of Ministers of State shall be appointed from among members of Parliament”.
Article 89 (2) states that “The President shall appoint such number of Ministers of State as may be necessary for the efficient running of the state”.
Speaking to journalists in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, over the weekend, President Mills gave the assurance that his Cabinet would be ready by the end of this month to ensure the effective running of government business.
He explained that the delay in naming his Cabinet was to ensure that decisions were taken in a careful and orderly manner, and noted that the nation was endowed with quality human resource. He urged critics to give him time to sort out his team.
The statement from President Mills drew criticisms from some members of society who thought the appointments could have been done earlier, since the President announced at his inauguration on January 7, that he “will hit the ground running”.
Although Prof. Mills did not say he needed to consult the Council of State before appointing his ministers, some radio panellists gave that as one of the reasons for the delay.

Portuphy takes over at NADMO (Back Page)

THE FORMER National Co-ordinator of the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), Mr Kofi Portuphy, has taken over the administration of the organisation with immediate effect.
He took over from the acting Co-ordinator, a retired Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCOP), Mr Douglas Akrofi-Asiedu.
This follows directives in a letter dated January 9, 2009 and signed by the President’s representative in charge of the Ministry of the Interior, Alhaji Mohammed Mumuni.
Mr Portuphy was the co-ordinator of NADMO, until he went on leave in 2001 and has since been out of office.
The move, according to the letter, is part of the transitional arrangement as the National Democratic Congress (NDC) prepares itself to fully take charge of the affairs of the nation.
Enquiries made at the NADMO Head Office by the Daily Graphic yesterday indicated that Mr Akrofi-Asiedu had since packed from his office.
Mr Purtophy was also said to have assumed duty at the organisation, but was not at post at the time of the visit.
Speaking in a radio interview in Accra yesterday, Mr Akrofi-Asiedu said he received his letter on his return from hospital and immediately complied with its contents.
The outgoing acting National Co-ordinator took over from Mr George Isaac Amoo in the heat of the floods that hit the northern part of the country in 2007.
The National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) is the constitutionally mandated government agency that co-ordinates the management of disasters and other emergencies.
NADMO, with its headquarters in Accra, has offices in all the 10 regions and 138 districts.
The work of the organisation comprises activities in all the three phases of disaster management cycle, that is before, during and after emergencies.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Separate veterinary services from mainstream agriculture (Back Page)

THE Ghana Veterinary Medical Association (GVMA) has called for the separation of veterinary services from mainstream agriculture at all levels to enhance an effective veterinary health delivery system.
It explained that the situation where veterinary activities had been reduced and subsumed under general agriculture as is the case at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), was negatively affecting the country’s animal healthcare delivery.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in Accra, the President of the GVMA, Dr K.B. Darkwa, said that veterinary science is a specialised field and should therefore not be forced under other disciplines where the personnel have no knowledge in veterinary practice and could therefore not promote it effectively.
He said to achieve the best for the sector the association had recommended for a Ghana Veterinary Health Service within the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) to operate as a separate entity to improve service delivery.
He also said in order to underline the new status of the veterinary service and emphasise its importance within the MoFA, the ministry should be redesignated as the Ministry of Agriculture and Veterinary Services to reflect the two different disciplines which also operate differently.
Dr Darkwa, who is also the Executive Director of the La Veterinary Hospital in Accra, said to get the best of animal health practice in Ghana, there should be a structure where veterinary activities in the districts and the regions would be supervised by veterinary officers at the head office instead of the current situation where agriculturists were made to perform that role.
In a document titled “A Position by the Veterinary Council of Ghana on Public Sector Reforms and Placement of the Veterinary Services”, the association said the once efficient veterinary services of Ghana built and nurtured over decades to attain a showpiece status in West Africa, was currently grossly underperforming.
The document said the association had noted with concern that MoFA in its quest to implement a decentralised and unified extension system in the country had downplayed and sometimes marginalised veterinary activities to the extent that the once vibrant national animal health delivery system had dropped to unacceptable levels.
“The attempt to subsume veterinary activities and veterinary surgeons under the general agriculture (crops) with vets working under the direct supervision and control of agriculturists designated as district and regional directors of agriculture who are even juniors in some cases, is strangulating the proper performance of veterinary functions in the ministry”, adds the document.
It, however, noted that the recommendation for the establishment of veterinary health service was not to have a system which would make the sector operate in isolation but would rather help it have strong linkages through collaboration with other relevant stakeholders for efficient and effective provision of veterinary health care in Ghana.

Friday, January 9, 2009

....It was pomp and pagentry (Page 3)

January 8, 2009.

A LARGE crowd of Ghanaians, most of them beautifully dressed in the national colours of red, gold and green and the colours of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), yesterday converged on the Independence Square to witness the swearing-in ceremony of Professor J.E.A. Mills as the third President of the Fourth Republic.
The crowd, which was made up of men, women and children from all walks of life, started arriving at the Independence Square before 4 am for the programme, which officially began after 2 p.m.
Like all national events, there was quite a number of traditional rulers, members of the clergy, politicians, members of the Diplomatic Corps, security personnel, as well as members the general public, who appeared in their traditional wear.
When the Daily Graphic arrived at the Independence Square at 9.15 a.m., there was a large number of buses parked around the square and the offices around the Ohene Djan Stadium, with inscriptions to indicate which part of the country the buses had come from.
Smartly dressed personnel of Zoomlion Company, a waste management company, were seen busily cleaning the square, even though the crowd continued to litter the place.
The chiefs, some in the company of their queens and elders, displayed the rich culture of Ghana with the types of cloths they wore, the ornaments they adorned, the stools or skins they occupied, as well as the umbrellas they sat under.
Unlike the supporters of the NDC who wore attires in the party’s colours, with other paraphernalia to go with, almost all the party officials who were present were seen in white apparel, with various shades of the national colours designed in them.
There was also a large number of foreign and local media practitioners who had pitched camp to cover the event live on either television or radio. Others from the print media were not left out.
About 12 noon foreign Heads of State, members of the Diplomatic Corps and international and local organisations started arriving at the grounds, which was under tight security provided by the police and the military.
It was a hectic time getting access to the venue, as cars had parked along the road leading to the square from as far back as the Ridge Hospital.
At the entrance, journalists and other invited guests had to struggle to go through the crowd because most of the people had converged there, trying to enter the inner perimeter of the square.
Later, the newly sworn in Members of Parliament (MPs) had to abandon their buses near the stadium and walk to the venue because there was no access.
It was around the same time that the NPP presidential candidate, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, arrived, amidst cheers from the crowd.
That was followed by the arrival of the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Wood; the Speaker of Parliament, Mrs Justice Joyce Adeline Bamford-Addo, and other dignitaries.
As the foreign dignitaries were arriving, the former Vice-President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama, arrived, followed by the Immediate Past President, Mr J.A. Kufuor, and later former President J.J. Rawlings, and his wife, Nana Konadu.
All of a sudden, the crowd at the right side of the dais broke the barricade, pushed the security men aside and surged forward close to where the leaders were seated.
As if that action was co-ordinated, others on the right side and those directly opposite the presidential dais also did the same, making the place very uncontrollable for the security personnel.
The problem with the crowd was compounded by a large number of both accredited and non-accredited photographers who deprived the chiefs, the MPs and other dignitaries the opportunity to witness the swearing-in ceremony.
In spite of all these, the ceremony went on smoothly, without any hitch to the dignitaries.
The sale of food, drinks, party paraphernalia and other items was at its peak. Stalls were set up from behind the Independence Square all the way to the Ohene Gyan Sports Stadium and beyond.
Cobblers were another group of people who made a lot of money because many of the people who were caught up in the stampede at the square had their footwear damaged.
When the programme was over and the dignitaries were leaving, former President Rawlings was virtually taken hostage on the VIP dais by hundreds of NDC supporters who had thronged the Independence Square to witness the ceremony, writes Timothy Gobah.
For well over 30 minutes Flt Lt Rawlings and his wife could not move, as the enthusiastic crowd besieged the dais to get closer to the former first couple.
While they screamed the names of the former couple, a few dignitaries and traditional rulers also tried to force their way onto the dais to extend their congratulations to them on their hard work and support for Prof Mills to wrest power from the NPP.
Flt Lt Rawlings later succumbed to pressure and, in his usual fashion, acknowledged cheers from the massive crowd by literally blowing a kiss into the air.
The former President, who looked more cheerful and relaxed, told the Daily Graphic in a brief interview that the NDC victory was for Ghanaians in particular and democracy in general.
He, therefore, called on all, regardless of one’s party affiliation, to come together in building a formidable nation.

Mills Takes Offices Today (Front)

January 7, 2009

THOUSANDS of Ghanaians and other nationals will sit through another moment of Ghanaian history at the Independence Square in Accra today, January 7, 2009 as Professor John Evans Atta Mills is sworn in as the third President of the Fourth Republic.
Millions more across the country will watch the ceremony on television from about 11 a.m. when the programme is expected to start.
It will see President John Agyekum Kufuor handing over the sword of office to Prof Mills. Mr John Dramani Mahama will also be sworn in as Vice-President.
The inauguration ceremony, which takes place after the general election every four years, is a constitutional requirement which has to take place before an individual elected to the highest office of the land assumes duty as the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces.
As part of the ceremony, Prof Mills will swear the Presidential Oath, which reads: “I, John Evans Atta Mills, having been elected to the high office of President of the Republic of Ghana, do (in the name of the Almighty God swear) (solemnly affirm) that I will be faithful and true to the Republic of Ghana; that I will at all times preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana; and that I dedicate myself to the service and well-being of the people of the Republic of Ghana and to do right to all manner of persons.
“I further (solemnly swear) (solemnly affirm) that should I at any time break this oath of office, I shall submit myself to the laws of the Republic of Ghana and suffer the penalty for it. (So help me God).”
The oath will be administered by the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, in the presence of a new Parliament and its new Speaker.
In addition to the incoming President and the immediate past President who will be the centre of attraction tomorrow, other very important personalities (VIPs) expected to be at the ceremony include former President J. J. Rawlings and some Heads of State in the ECOWAS sub-region.
A visit by the Daily Graphic to the Independence Square about 9.35 a.m. yesterday indicated that preparations were underway to get the place ready for the national event.
Present at the time of the visit were some police officers, staff of the State Protocol Department, the Information Services Department (ISD) and a private company, Silicon House Production, which has been contracted to liaise with the ISD to provide quality sound at the programme.
At the grounds were 73 canopies being arranged to accommodate more than 5,000 invited guests. An unspecified number of well wishers, mostly from among the general public, will be guided to find seats under the permanent structures at the Independence Square.
In an interview at the Independence Square, the Officer in charge of the Works Branch of State Protocol, Madam Juliana Nuwoame, was emphatic that all would be ready by midnight yesterday, "else we will have to spend the night here to finish everything for the programme tomorrow".
She said to avoid a situation where some VIPs and invited guests might lose their seats to the general public, the seats had been demarcated to accommodate specific people at specific areas.
Madam Nuwoame said the 5,000 invited guests were made up of MPs, ministers, service commanders, heads of some recognised institutions, religious leaders, traditional rulers, members of the Diplomatic Corps, political party leaders, heads of professional bodies and other distinguished personalities.
For his part, the Second-in-Command of Police Operations in the Accra Police Region, Supt Aboagye Sarpong, who was on the ground to assess the situation, said there had been a series of meetings by personnel of the National Security to put in place adequate security measures for the event.
He advised the public to co-operate with the security personnel detailed at the grounds for a smooth programme.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tain, key to presidency

(Mirror, Saturday January 3, 2009)
THE Tain Constituency of the Brong Ahafo Region shot into national prominence yesterday as a crucial run-off election was held there to finally decide who takes over the mantle of leadership from President Kufuor on January 7.
Two sepatate elections held on December 7 and 28, failed to produce a clear winner.
In the first election held on December 7, none of contenders was able to garner more than 50 per cent of the votes required for an outright win while in the December 28 run-off, the closeness of the figures required that the election in the Tain Constituency was held.
The re-run was between Nana Akufo-Addo of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and Professor John Evans Atta Mills, former vice president and candidate of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).
In the first round, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo obtained 4,159,439 votes, representing 49.13 per cent of the votes, while Prof Mills garnered 4,056,634 votes, representing 47.92 per cent of the votes cast in 229 out of the 230 constituencies.
The election in the Tain Constituency could not take place during the run-off due to circumstances beyond the control of the EC.
Although Prof Mills led in the run-off with 4,501,466 (50.13 per cent) as against Nana Akufo-Addo’s 4,478,411 (49.87 per cent), the Chairman of the EC, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, declined to name a winner due to the closeness of the polls and hence the need to conduct the outstanding election in the Tain constituency.
The results announced last Tuesday, therefore, came from 229 out of a total of 230 constituencies throughout the country.
Giving reasons why the commission could not announce a winner at a press conference held in Accra, Dr Afari-Gyan said because of the closeness of the results, it was necessary for the commission to conduct the election in the Tain Constituency since results from that place could make a difference in the standings of the contenders.
The EC chairman also indicated that the commission was going to conduct investigations into allegations of electoral irregularities in Kumasi in particular, and some parts of the Ashanti Region as well as in the Volta Region, where both the NDC and the NPP had made some allegations against each other.
He said the NDC had produced evidence on the alleged irregularities but the commission was yet to receive any from the ruling party.
Earlier before the announcement of the results, media personnel from all walks of life had waited for more than four hours for the arrival of the Chairman of the EC.
Journalists who converged at the EC’s conference room awaiting the announcement from Dr Afari-Gyan had a hectic time competing with their colleagues and political party agents for space.
With an earlier assurance that the announcement would be made at 12.00 noon, some media personnel got to the EC premises as early as 9.00 a.m. but had to wait till about 5.00 p.m. amidst speculation as to what was going on.
The acting Head of the Public Affairs unit of the EC, Mr Owusu Parry, earlier announced that the Chairman was in a meeting with leaders of the two political parties and would meet the press at 2.45 p.m. but journalists had to wait longer than the scheduled time.
The atmosphere at the conference room which accommodated both local and foreign journalists, observers and political party agents, mostly from the NDC was tense as information from colleagues who gathered courage to go outside was scary.
The street in front of the EC offices and the Ridge Hospital in Accra was “hijacked” by a large crowd of NDC supporters who sang and danced.
For fear of an attack by the crowd, there was tight security in and around the EC offices but in spite of that, a large crowd of political party supporters managed to get into the conference room when the EC chairman finally came in to address the press.

Extend Tenure of Future of Future President (Page 3)

President J.A. Kufuor delivered a conciliatory State of the Nation Address to Parliament yesterday and made recommendations for constitutional reviews that would extend the tenure of future presidents and regulate the term of members of the Electoral Commission (EC).
In his last State of the Nation Address prior to the dissolution of the Fourth Parliament of the Fourth Republic, the President recommended for the consideration of Parliament a system which would retain the independence of the EC but provide it with a specific tenure of office.
He also observed, obviously from his eight-year experience as President, that a four-year tenure for a president of a country such as Ghana, which he described as “a struggling developing nation with weak institutions”, might be too short and suggested a five-year renewable term.
On the EC, the President suggested that the renewal of the appointment of commissioners should be vested in an Electoral College and added that consideration might be given to a six-year, two-term arrangement overlapping the period of Parliament.
“The country has been fortunate with the current commission which, by and large, has conducted itself professionally. There is no doubt, however, that generally it is risky to have a referee who enjoys permanent tenure,” he observed.
Present at the ceremony, the last to be addressed by the President in his current capacity, were the Vice-President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama, and his wife, Ramatu; the Speaker of Parliament, Mr Ebenezer Begyina Sekyi Hughes, and his wife, Betty; the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, and her husband, Edwin; the First Lady, Mrs Theresa Kufuor; the defeated presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who is the outgoing Member of Parliament (MP) for Abuakwa South, as well as other MPs from both sides of the political divide.
The rest were members of the Council of State, Service Commanders, members of the Diplomatic Corps, religious leaders, traditional rulers, politicians, civil society groups and the general public.
At 10.15 a.m. when the President arrived in Parliament to give his address, MPs from both the NPP and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) sides who had been entangled in serious political wrangling a few days ago were seen crossing over to shake hands and hug one another in a friendly manner.
The President pointed out that the oft-cited success stories of countries like Malaysia and Singapore which had witnessed great transformation might be explained in terms of stability and longer tenure of the executive leadership.
“This is especially so for an incumbent who, though popular, may lack the requisite experience at the point of assuming office .... Perhaps, in the case of Ghana, a five-year term renewable once will create the needed space for making a better impact,” he stressed.
Looking at some of the challenges that faced an incumbent government under Ghana’s Constitution, President Kufuor observed that the adaptation of the doctrine of separation of powers between the Legislature and the Executive posed a vexed question, since the Constitution required majority of cabinet members to be appointed from within Parliament.
He said the current arrangement was perhaps meant to facilitate the co-operation between the two organs but, on the other hand, it was clear that the demands of the two functions required full-time attention, a situation which he observed could lead to under-performance by an MP who doubled as a minister.
“The combination of the position of a minister and a legislator in one person gives undue psychological advantage over an ordinary legislator... In short, both the Executive and the Legislature get weaker by combining full-time functions that must be kept separately,” he said.
The President drew attention to the fact that under the present circumstances, transforming the nation could not be effected under one presidency and said there should be a succession of presidents working towards the same goal over time to achieve strategic transformation of any kind.
He, therefore, brought out what he termed three strategic programmes which had already been initiated and stated that they must be developed to help Ghana to attain its vision of becoming a middle-income economy by 2015.
One of the programmes he named was the emerging petro-chemical sector, saying that the government had started an international forum with a view to learning from best practices around the world for managing the sector.
He also named the success in stabilising the macro-economy, which had led to a dramatic expansion in the financial sector, the provision of diversified products in the banking sector, among others, as well as the integrated aluminium industry which he said needed priority action.
In the social sector, President Kufuor appealed for the sustenance of the progress in the educational sector; the upgraded teacher training institutions, emphasising that science, mathematics and ICT should be resourced; support for the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and the pursuit of the expansion of the railway system for which US$90 million had been secured.
Touching on the incoming Parliament, which he noted was hung and virtually split through the middle, President Kufuor said, “This must present its own challenges,” and went further to state that there was no doubt that to carry any measure, there must be compromises, sensible accommodation and, in short, constructive consensus building.
The President took the opportunity to congratulate both the President-elect, Professor J.E.A. Mills of the NDC, and the presidential candidate of the NPP in the last election, Nana Akufo-Addo, on their individual efforts in the elections.
To Professor Mills, President Kufuor expressed the hope that he would bring the wealth of experience he garnered while in government and subsequently out of it to forge a sense of unity within the body politic, which was a sine qua non for nation-building.
To Nana Akufo-Addo, the President sent his congratulation on acquitting himself with valour and the greatest sense of dignity in what he described as one of the closest and most keenly contested elections ever in the nation’s political history.
“He, more than anyone else, should know that our tradition has been fashioned and tempered with perseverance, resilience and the resolve to stay the course,” President Kufuor said.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Unity Talks Underway (Front Page)

Sat, January 3, 2009

THERE are signs of a breakthrough in the current political stalemate following a resolve by the leadership of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to dialogue and work together to preserve and enhance the unity and prosperity of the nation.
Reading a statement on behalf of the Chairman of the Peace Council, His Eminence Peter Cardinal Appiah Turkson, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra, the Most Reverend Gabriel Charles Palmer-Buckle, said the dialogue had become necessary because the results of both the presidential and parliamentary elections had shown the deep split in the country by partisan political passions and emotions.
He was addressing an emergency press conference to disseminate the outcome of consultations undertaken by Eminent Religious Leaders over the current state of the nation after the December 28, 2008 presidential run-off.
The eminent religious leaders were emphatic that separate meetings held with Professor J.E.A. Mills of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) had yielded some positive results.
The Most Rev Palmer-Buckle said it became necessary for the group, which is made up of Christian and Muslim leaders, to facilitate dialogue between the two parties because “there is a national emergency”.
He also pointed out that the religious leaders, together with civil society organisations grouped under the Civic Forum Initiative (CFI), had been working around the clock to foster constructive dialogue between the two presidential candidates who contested the run-off, together with their political parties, especially since December 29, 2009.
The Most Rev Palmer-Buckle hinted further that at the time of the press conference, Cardinal Turkson was having a meeting with Nana Akufo-Addo and expressed the hope that something positive would come out of that meeting.
Flanked by other senior members of the clergy and leaders of some civic society groups, the Archbishop said, “At no time in our post-independence history in the past 51 years has our national unity been pushed to the limits and under such enormous strain.”
He said if that emergent and dangerous trend was allowed to spiral out of control, it could destroy the country’s rich tradition of peace and national cohesion which many admired throughout the world.
“We must never allow this great tradition to be sacrificed for any political purpose whatever,” he stressed.
The eminent religious leaders took the opportunity to appeal to all Ghanaians to allow the Electoral Commission (EC) the time and space needed to complete its work and explained that the attitude of some political party activists of pressurising the commission to announce the results of elections held earlier was not the best.
The group also complained about some media reportage, especially what it termed as baseless information which was sent out by some FM stations during the past few days which it observed had the tendency to plunge the country into serious problems.
They, therefore, called on the authorities to find ways of preventing such a dangerous behaviour in future.
The religious leaders also appealed to all Ghanaians to remain calm, exercise tolerance and show love and kindness towards one another, as well as the commitment to promote further peace and stability in the country.
“No individual or group can win anything lasting using violence. We will lose if we allow violence to overcome our collective reasoning. Therefore, when it is all over, let us celebrate together the victory of our democracy and the unity of our nation. Ghana must be the winner,” they pointed out.

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year’s day celebration on low key (Back Page)

THE usual merry-making associated with New Year’s Day was absent in many parts of Accra yesterday.
The atmosphere in the metropolis was quiet and uncertain, as residents remained apprehensive as a result of the prevailing political stalemate.
Reports from other parts of the country gave a similar picture and attributed the situation to politics.
A report by the Carter Centre indicated that the 2008 elections, Ghana's fifth since multi-party democracy was restored in 1992, were widely seen as an opportunity to further advance democratic consolidation.
Expectations for the elections, according to the report, had been extremely high, both inside and outside Ghana.
“The country has served as an anchor in the West African region, which has often been marred by areas of instability and civil war. For this reason, a successful election is critically important to both Ghana and the region as a whole,” it stated.
But, unfortunately, there seem to be signs to indicate that things may not go the way Ghanaians and the rest of the world expected.
There have been reports of election related violence in some parts of the country, especially in the Ashanti Region, the stronghold of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), and the Volta Region, the stronghold of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
Last Tuesday, supporters of the NDC converged on the Electoral Commission (EC) to demonstrate against what they termed as delays in declaring the winner of the presidential run-off between their candidate, Professor J.E.A. Mills, and the candidate of the NPP, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
The following day, hundreds of NPP supporters also held a similar demonstration at the EC to protest against the results released by the commission, which put the NDC flag bearer in the lead.
This year’s elections have been highly competitive, as Prof Mills, who had previously run against and lost to Mr J.A. Kufuor in 2000 and 2004, took a narrow lead of 50.13 per cent of the votes, as against Nana Akufo-Addo’s 49.87 per cent in the run-off.
Earlier, six smaller parties had fielded candidates who also contested the presidency, including Paa Kwesi Nduom of the Convention People's Party (CPP) and Dr Edward Mahama of the People's National Convention (PNC).
After the nation failed to get a clear winner in the December 7, 2008 election, December 28, 2008 was chosen for a run-off which again could not determine a winner.
Although Prof Mills came first with 4,501,466 votes, as against Nana Akufo-Addo’s 4,478,411, Dr Afari-Gyan declined to name a winner as a result of the outstanding election in the Tain Constituency where voting in the run-off could not be held in all the 144 polling stations because of a pending protest.
As the nation awaits the results from the Tain Constituency today, everybody seems to be on edge.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Tain Comes Alive (Front Page)

AN unassuming constituency in the Brong Ahafo Region, Tain, formally the Wenchi West Constituency, with Nsawkaw as its headquarters, has, for the second time within two years, become the focus of the more than 20 million Ghanaians and the world at large.
The Tain District earned national and international recognition for the time on August 24, 2007 when the sod was cut for the multi-million dollar Bui Hydro Electric Project. On that day, President J. A. Kufuor blasted a mountain of rocks and rubbles to signify the beginning of work on the US$622 million integrated project.
Tain (pronounced Tine or Tyne) shot into national and international prominence for the second time last Tuesday when it was mentioned by the Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC) as the constituency to determine the fate of two people, one of whom would be the next President of Ghana.
For the second time running, the EC could not declare a winner of the presidential election and by the figures it released, the nation has to wait for Tain, which is yet to make a choice between the two presidential candidates in the run-off.
The contending parties are the New Patriotic Party (NPP), with Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo as its presidential candidate, and the National Democratic Congress (NDC), which has Professor J.E.A. Mills as its candidate.
Prior to that determination, Tain was the scene of bitter allegations between the NPP and the NDC following the general election of December 7, 2008.
The NPP alleged that the constituency results had been manipulated to favour the NDC.
Days after the polls, the EC office in the constituency headquarters, Nsawkaw, was burnt down in what was suspected to be the work of arsonists.
When the incident occurred, official documents, ballot boxes and the roof of the entire building were reportedly burnt to ashes.
Addressing journalists on Tuesday, the Chairman of the EC, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, said a winner would be determined only after voting had taken place in the Tain Constituency on Friday, January 2, 2008.
For this reason, Tain, with 56,000 registered voters, is now the battleground where the close presidential race between Prof Mills and Nana Akufo-Addo will finally be decided.
Dr Afari-Gyan, in making the announcement on Tuesday, indicated that in last Sunday’s run-off between the two, Prof Mills had 50.13 per cent of the votes, as against Nana Akufo-Addo’s 49.87 per cent.
The Tain District, which doubles as the Tain Constituency, is one of the districts created in June 2004. It is situated at the north-western part of Sunyani, the Brong Ahafo Regional capital.
In terms of land area, Tain covers 4,125 sq kilometres. Nsawkaw, the district capital, is 18 miles from Wenchi, the capital of the Wenchi Municipality, out of which Tain was carved.
The district shares common boundaries with the Wenchi Municipality to the east, the Jaman North District to the west, the Sunyani Municipality to the south and the Berekum Municipality to the south-west. It is also bounded by the Bole District of the Northern Region to the north east and Cote d’Ivoire to the north-west.
The big towns in the district, such as Debibi, Brodi, Seikwa and Badu, are far from the district capital, Nsawkaw, and its closeness to districts such as Berekum, Jaman North and Sunyani deprive the district of the needed revenue, as the big towns in the Tain District transact business with these nearby districts.
One important community in the constituency is where the Bui Hydro project, which is expected to add 400 megawatts of electrical power to the country’s generation mix, is under construction.
The people are mainly farmers, cultivating food crops, especially maize and yam. They also cultivate cashew on a large scale.
Unlike some constituencies where the people usually have a common language, Tain is made up of different ethnic groups, with the people speaking various languages. The people in the Banda side of the constituency who live around Banda Ahenkro and Manje speak Nafana; those in Nsawkaw speak Bono, while those in Seikwa, Badu and its environs speak Kolenge.
The name of the constituency is derived from the River Tain, which flows through a small town in the constituency, Tainso.
Some prominent personalities who hail from the constituency are Alhaji Asuma Banda of Antrak Air; Mr Johnson Asiedu-Nketia, the General Secretary of the NDC, and Nana Kwadwo Seinti, a former Brong Ahafo Regional Minister in the NPP government, who is currently Ghana’s Ambassador to Malaysia.
What is at stake is the difference of 23,055 votes which could not give Prof Mills the presidency, since the number of voters in the Tain Constituency is more than the figure.
Prof Mills won in the Tain Constituency during the 2008 general election. He obtained 16,211 votes, representing 50.7 per cent, while Nana Akufo-Addo got 14,935, representing 46.8 per cent.
Ahmed Ibrahim of the NDC won the parliamentary election with 14,965 votes, representing 48.1 per cent of the valid votes cast, while the incumbent Member of Parliament (MP), Mr Joe Danquah of the NPP, got 12,048, representing 38.7 per cent.

No Winner Yet (Front Page)

December 31, 2008
Tain, a constituency in the Brong-Ahafo Region with 56,000 registered voters, is now the battleground where the close presidential race between Professor John Evans Atta Mills and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo will finally be decided on Friday.
A calm and relaxed Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, the Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), made the announcement yesterday, indicating that in last Sunday’s run-off between the two, Professor Mills had 50.13 per cent of the votes, as against Nana Akufo-Addo’s 49.87 per cent.
The announcement defused the nation-wide tension that had followed Sunday’s run-off and signalled that for the third time the EC would attempt to pick the winner in a presidential election which began on December 7, 2008.
Although the National Democratic Congress’s (NDC’s) Prof Mills came first with 4,501,466 votes, as against the New Patriotic Party’s (NPP’s) Nana Akufo-Addo’s 4,478,411 after the re-run which took place on December 28, Dr Afari-Gyan declined to name a winner as a result of the outstanding election in Tain where voting in the run-off could not be held in all the 144 polling stations because of a pending protest.
Explaining why voting in Tain could not take place last Sunday, an official of the EC told the Daily Graphic in Sunyani that the situation was occasioned by a protest from representatives of the NPP in the constituency to the effect that the regional office of the EC had not supplied the required number of booklets for voting.
They alleged further that the EC officials had hidden some of the ballot booklets for no apparent reason, a claim the EC officials vehemently denied and insisted that there was no shortage of the ballot papers.
The EC Chairman described the circumstances as being beyond the control of the commission and scheduled voting there for Friday, January 2, 2009.
The results he announced, therefore, came from 229 out of the 230 constituencies throughout the country.
Giving the reasons the commission could not announce a winner at a press conference held in Accra, Dr Afari-Gyan said because of the closeness of the results, it was necessary for the EC to conduct the election in Tain, since results from there could make a difference.
The EC Chairman also indicated that the commission was going to conduct investigations into allegations of electoral irregularities in Kumasi, in particular, and some parts of the Ashanti Region, as well as the Volta Region, saying that both the NDC and the NPP had made some allegations against each other.
He said the NDC, for its part, had produced evidence on the alleged irregularities but the EC was yet to receive any evidence from the ruling party.
Earlier, before the announcement of the results, media personnel from all walks of life had waited for more than four hours for the arrival of the Chairman of the EC.
On many occasions during the waiting period some police officers came round to do some recce where the chairman and the other commissioners would sit and on each occasion their presence drew the media personnel back to the hall.
Yesterday’s announcement has made Tain the ‘king maker’ of the next administration.
In the December 7 presidential election in the constituency, Prof Mills polled 16,211 votes, representing 50.75 per cent, as against Nana Akufo-Addo’s 14,935, which represented 46.75 per cent.
Speaking to the media shortly after the announcement, the Chairman of the NPP, Mr Peter Mac Manu, said the people of Tain should not be disenfranchised in the election but should be allowed to cast their ballots to determine who won the presidency.
“In elections, anything can happen and we all have to wait for Friday, which is just around the corner, for the people of Tain to exercise their franchise to decide the winner,” he added.
Mr Mac Manu said the NPP would be more than prepared to concede defeat to the NDC should the results go in favour of the NDC.
However, he added that the NPP was highly optimistic of a massive victory in Tain to turn the table in its favour.
On whether the NPP was going to produce evidence of allegations of malpractice against the NDC in the Volta Region, he said, “We are going to compile the evidence to present to the EC as soon as possible.”
Leading members of the NDC, including Dr Tony Aidoo, Alhaji Huudu Yahaya, among others, left the hall before the announcement was made.