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Friday, July 28, 2006

Have You Paid Tax On Your Rent?

By Stephen Kwabena Effah & Julia Gursztyn
Friday, 28 July 2006 (Page 3)


Do you know it is mandatory for every tenant to withhold a tax of 10 per cent every month from the gross rent to be paid their landlords?

Well, if you do not know, the Internal Revenue Regulations 2001 requires every individual to deduct 10 per cent from his rent to be paid to the Internal Revenue Services (IRS).

A Chief Inspector of Taxes of IRS, Kwasi Oppong-Damoah, who said this at a seminar on withholding tax and rent tax in Accra on Wednesday, explained that if after deducting the 10 per cent, the individual fails to pay to the IRS, he or she will be surcharged.

The seminar was organised by the IRS to educate and sensitize finance officers who handle withholding tax so as to obtain the needed cooperation and appropriate response and also to explain to house owners what is required of them in terms of tax payment.

Mr.Oppong-Damoah said if the amount is not paid to IRS within three months, the individual will pay a penalty of 20 per cent and after three months it will attract a 30 per cent penalty.

The withholding tax of 10 per cent may be taken from the gross rent, adding, "the tax so withheld is final and the rent shall not be included in ascertaining the individual’s income after withholding the tax," he explained.

He indicated that companies that construct residential and commercial premises for sale or for letting have exemption for a period of five years from when the operations commenced.

However, the exemption is available only to companies and not individuals in the real estate business.

Mr.Oppong-Damoah observed that even though the laws have been in existence since 2001,a lot of people are not complying with them.

He therefore urged individuals and companies to comply with the law to avoid being surcharged.

The Commissioner of IRS, Maj. Daniel S.Ablorh-Quarcoo (Rtd), said that excessive dependence on external resources to push the country’s development agenda can put brakes on its efforts whenever unfavourable developments occur in the donor countries.

He noted that withholding taxes constitute a big chunk of IRS collection but quite a substantial portion of taxes deducted in accordance with the withholding tax law have not found its way to the consolidated fund.

He attributed this to negligence and attitude of financial officers and individuals, adding that returns on rent tax have not been encouraging in spite of the boom in the real estate sector countrywide.

Maj.Ablorh-Quarcoo therefore urged finance officers of various organizations and house owners to live up to their responsibilites to avoid leakages in rent tax and withholding tax payments.

"If government will be able to deliver the goods and meet our many expectations in the form of the provision of adequate infrastructure and social amenities, then it behoves on us as good citizens, both corporate and individual, to perform our part of the contract," he said.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Phone Snatcher Thrown Into Odaw River

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Tuesday, 25 July 2006 (Page 3)


AN unidentified man in his late 20s was yesterday morning beaten, stripped and thrown into the Odaw stream by a mob at Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra for allegedly snatching a mobile phone.

He was left in the water for about an hour before being rescued by three people who took him to the nearby Neoplan Station police post.

The one who allegedly threw him into the river was also arrested by the police.

The duty officer at the police post, Lance Corporal Geoffrey Ayernor, confirmed the arrest of the two people when the Times contacted him but declined to comment, saying ‘it is above me to give information. I will brief my boss when he is in for him to brief you."

However, an eyewitness told the Times that the suspected thief was arrested by the mob around the Awudome cemetery for snatching a lady’s mobile phone.

While being taken to the police station, he was stripped and beaten and on reaching the Odaw drainage just behind the police post at Circle, a member of the mob pushed him into the water.

The incident attracted a large crowd most of whom craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the suspect who had covered his face with his hands, apparently to avoid being identified.

Vehicular and pedestrian movement on the usually busy Odaw bridge became more difficult as people shoved their way through to catch a glimpse of him.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

WAEC Examinations Under Scrutiny

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Tuesday, 18 July 2006 (Page 3)


The Consultative Council for Teachers Associations (CCTA), a grouping of subject teacher associations, has asked the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) to take cognisance of the national goals and objectives of member countries in setting questions for schools.

Citing the report of Presidential Review Committee on Education set up in 2002, CCTA President, Samuel M. Quartey, said the education system continues to suffer from state examinations such as the Basic Education Certificate Examination and Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination which are used as indicators of quality.

Professor Quartey, who was speaking at a forum organised by the CCTA, said “there is so much competition that teachers tend to over emphasise solving problems for examinations rather than encouraging meaningful learning.”

Dubbed ‘Time with WAEC’, the forum was aimed at analysing the conduct and test administration by WAEC in the public school system to acquire relevant knowledge necessary to enhance teaching, curriculum and examination syllabuses.

He said subjects at any level of education are selected because of their possible contribution to the attainment of national goals and objectives, adding, “subjects are not being taught because of the knowledge they give but because such knowledge will help us achieve national goals and objectives,” Prof. Quartey stated.

“It is therefore not helpful to the nation when questions for assessment are not related to the national goals and objectives.”

He said examination set the tone for teaching and learning noting that no matter how well the universities train the teachers, they will be compelled to tailor their teaching to the demands of the final examination by WAEC.

Prof.Quartey said that although positive modifications have been made in certain subject areas, when it comes to subjects like social studies, science and technology, “one doubts whether efforts in these directions are prompting teachers to teach in the right direction.”

He said statistics from the 2002 educational report showed that only 8.7 per cent of pupils in public schools reached a mastery level of 60 per cent in English and 55 per cent in Mathematics, noting, “this is an indictment on the quality of education in Ghana.”

He said government’s directive for 60 per cent/40 per cent science admission into universities and secondary schools, respectively has become necessary because of the importance the nation attaches to science and technology.

He observed, however, that BECE questions in technical skills hardly ever expose students to skills and “one wonders how the technical skills student is made to identify parts of tools rather than the appropriate use of the tools.”

It is not therefore surprising that even students who perform very well in technical and vocational skills at the junior secondary level refuse to go to technical and vocational institution, he said.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Faulty GC-Net Affects Goods Clearance At KIA

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Saturday, 15 July 2006 (Page 4)


ACCESSING the GC-Net has become a problem for clearing agents at the Kotoka International Airport due to the high number of users.

Consequently, the agents have resorted to manual processing and clearance of goods at the terminal, making the process cumbersome.

GC-Net, an acronym for the Ghana Community Network Service, generates customs delivery orders electronically to notify clearing and forwarding agents about the readiness of consignments to be cleared from the ports.

Mr Afindabs Dahaman, Principal Collector of the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS), attached to the Aviance Cargo Village Terminal, who disclosed this to the media in Accra, said “we have reported the situation to the authorities to get it done as soon as possible to facilitate the clearance of goods.”

He was speaking during a visit by the Minister of Aviation, Gloria Akuffo to the Airport.

The Director of Airport Management, Chris Quaye, told the minister that the GCAA is arranging with Eco Bank to provide ATM machines at the Departure Hall where passengers can cash money.

The GCAA has acquired a high powered resolution X-ray machine to be installed soon to beef up the security inspection of luggage at the airport, he said.

The Director of Aviation Security, Major Awudu Mahama, said the GCAA will soon acquire security cameras to enhance its surveillance within the airport and outside.

He said a place will be designated at the Arrival Hall where the public will wait and receive their relatives and business clients.

Ms. Akuffo told reporters after the tour that she was very impressed with the developments at the airport.

She assured the GCAA of government’s support saying, “we will give GCAA, the necessary encouragement to ensure that they work hard towards the making of the airport, the hub of aviation in sub-Sahara Africa.”

She suggested to the GCAA to commercialize its newly-acquired machine used in lifting distressed aircraft to generate some income.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Farmers Use Toxic Chemicals

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Wednesday, 12 July 2006 (Front Page)

A number of chemicals banned in most developed countries are still being used by farmers in some communities in Ghana.

The chemicals which are said to be having devastating effects on human life and the environment, were banned under the Stockholm Convention in 1985. They include DDT, dieldrin, eldrin and lindane.

Emmanuel Odjam-Akumatey, Executive Director of Ecological Restorations, a non-governmental organization, disclosed in Accra on Monday at a news conference on the subject “Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).”

He said the use of agro-chemicals in the country has reached an alarming rate and this was causing reproductive dysfunction, suppression of the immune system and developmental abnormalities in both humans and animals.

“Because of illiteracy, the chemicals are wrongly applied and this is having devastating effects on the environment and the health of humans,” he stated, and added that the implication of releasing residual agro-chemicals to the surface and ground water is a threat to human life.

Mr Odjam-Akumatey noted that while countries from which Ghana imports the chemicals are moving away from their usage, Ghana continues to encourage their use.

He therefore called for the promotion and the use of natural pesticides (organic manure) which he described as “healthy to the soil” rather than the use of inorganic chemicals and appealed to the media to educate farmers on the dangers of persistent organic pollutants.

Farmers are currently being taught the preparation of compost or organic manure, production of organic pesticides from tree leaves and how and when to apply them to crops, he noted.

He said that Ecological Restorations is working with the various stakeholders to develop a national policy on the limit of persistent organic pollutants in the country.

A programme officer of the Environmental Protection Agency, Charles Koomson, noted that vegetable farmers in their desperate attempt to protect their crops and investments

“For instance, chemicals meant to be applied on cocoa, such as lindane, which is persistent, highly toxic and bioccumulating, are used on vegetables such as tomatoes,” he said, adding that such mixtures improvised by farmers have been on rampant use leaving residues that are higher than limits set by the WHO and FAO.

He wondered why some of the listed pollutants and pesticides banned under the Stockholm Convention since 1985 still find their way into the country.

Mr. Koomson said that the EPA is playing a major role in the promotion of safe management of chemicals in the country noting that a pesticides registration and licensing scheme had been put in place in accordance with the Pesticides Control and Management Act 1996.

He said the EPA is strengthening institutional capacity in terms of legal framework, intensive awareness raising and education, reduction of POPs releases through the identification of alternative non-POPs pesticides and promotion of integrated pest management.

He said ultimate elimination of pollutants in the country would depend on active participation of relevant national stakeholders including government, NGOs, departments and agencies, research institutions, the media and community based organizations.

He lauded the Ecological Restorations for creating awareness on the effects of the pollutants and the promotion of integrated pest management in vegetable cultivation in its bid to protect human health and the environment.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Krachi West Assembly Gears up for Development

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Tuesday,11 July 2006 (Page 15)


The Krachi West District Assembly in the Volta Region has set up four committees to assist in stepping up the development of the district.

The committees, which are agriculture and aqua –culture, tourism, transport and education will serve as a pressure group to lobby ministries and agencies to bring developmental projects to the district as a means of ensuring accelerated growth.

Inaugurating the committees in Accra at the weekend, the District Chief Executive, Kofi Mensah Demitia said that although the district is endowed with resources, it is faced with the a lot of problems which are mainly general infrastructure.

He mentioned the road network, potable water, sanitation, and schools as the areas that need serious attention.

He said that assembly is to train 60 secondary school graduates in the district as health aides to scale-up the shortfall of health professionals in the various health facilities in the area noting that a total of 13 health aides have been trained so far and posted
to the clinics and health posts in the district.

Mr.Demitia explained that the assembly is expected to spend about ¢210 million for the training of the health aides adding “we will spend about ¢3.5 million cedis on each of these health aides”.

He indicated that the health aides programme would be developed further by the assembly with time, noting that some of the aides would be enrolled in nursing training schools for them to become fully fledged nurses to serve the district.
He noted that the capitation grant introduced by the government in basic education has increased enrolment by 170 per cent, resulting in over population of classrooms in the district.

He said the district does not have enough trained teachers, noting “we received only 40 trained teachers this academic year and also almost the same number of old teachers in the district have left to further their education while some have also been transferred from the district”.

Currently, he said that “we have 270 classrooms without teachers”.

The D.C.E, however said the assembly has decided to recruit pupil teachers for a four-week modular training to acquire teaching skills after which they would be sent to the various schools to fill the lapses.

He urged the citizens of the districts who are in the various universities and colleges in the country to go to the district to assist in the teaching field whenever they are on vacation or practical attachment, stressing that the assembly would do all within its power to assist such people.

Mr.Demitia also indicated that the government has started a farming project in the district under the Skills Training and Employment Placement which he said would engage about 350 youth in the area.

He therefore urged the youth in the district to take advantage of all these opportunities existing in the area to make a better life for themselves rather than engaging in unnecessary things.

He also announced that the assembly is planning to establish a rural bank in the district to offer loans to small scale business to ensure accelerated growth in the area. He said the assembly is preparing the necessary document to be presented to the Bank of Ghana for approval.

He observed that a lot of funds and resources for small scale businesses are channeled through rural banks and therefore the establishment of a rural bank for Kete Krachi would make it easier for business minded people to access the funds and also ensure better living of the people.

Mr.Demitia expressed the hope that the Bank of Ghana approves the establishment of the rural bank when the proposal is submitted to it.

National Schools Quiz On Economics, October

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Monday, 10 July 2006 (Page 3)


A national quiz on economics is to be introduced by the end of this year for second cycle institutions to promote students’ knowledge of economic issues, says Samuel Nii Noi Ashong, a research fellow of the Centre for Policy Analysis (CEPA).

The programme, a component of CEPA’s capacity building efforts is to enhance students’ grasp of both local and international economic issues at an early age to be able to make informed debates and choices.

Speaking at the outdooring of Project Citizen Ghana, a civic education programme for students and youth groups in Accra, Dr.Ashong said CEPA was preparing towards the commencement of the quiz by October.

Under the theme: “Consolidating Democracy Through Youth Participation”, Project Citizen Ghana was organized by the National Commission for Civic Education and Civitas under the auspices of the United States Centre for Civic Education.

It aims at developing a democratic citizen capable of fully participating in governance with competence, responsibility and commitment for the fundamental values and principles of constitutional democracy.

Dr.Ashong observed that debates on economic issues sometimes lacked depth, saying “a lot of people debate on personalities rather than on the issues.”

He said CEPA would make available reports on the economy to the secondary schools and colleges to give students as well as teachers the opportunity to be abreast of the economy and also enhance their research work.

He said the world now revolves on economics hence the need for all to take the subject seriously.

Touching on the theme, Dr Ashong said democracy does not entail only the opportunity to vote in elections but also to participate actively in governance, adding that it is important for the citizenry to get involved in the democratic process of the country to ensure development.

Dr.Ashong noted that the world has become increasingly knowledge-based and therefore asked the students to concentrate on their studies to gain knowledge, and “once you acquire knowledge, you cannot be a slave to anybody”.

He commended the NCCE, Civitas and the other organizers of the project for making it possible for Ghana to benefit from it.

The chairman of the NCCE, Mr Larry Bimi, said the project which was started about five years ago aims at instilling in the youth the skills and the capacity to determine public policy issues and research on them to achieve goals.

This would make them understand the importance of participatory democracy which is crucial for national development.

He said currently the project is being replicated in Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and other African countries.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Health Insurance Personnel Ask For Service Conditions

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Thursday, 06 July 2006 (Page 3)


Managers of the District Mutual Health Insurance Scheme (DMHIS) have called on the National Health Insurance Council (NHIC) to come up with conditions of service for the employees of the scheme.

They explained that the employees of the scheme were not being motivated enough in their work because of the lack of conditions of service.

The call was made at a two-day workshop for scheme managers, information systems managers and claims managers of the DMHIS.

The workshop, organized by the NHIC Secretariat, in collaboration with the Institute of Local Government Studies, is intended to build the capacity of the managers in claims adjudication and to create a platform for discussion on efficient claims management system for the National Health Insurance Scheme.

It is also expected to provide an opportunity for the participants to enhance their knowledge on stakeholder relationship management for the successful implementation of the DMHIS, and discuss the role of appropriate information systems and technology in medical claims processing.

The participants expressed concern about the high charges at mission hospitals, lack of computers and delays in the issuance of identification cards for registered members of the scheme.

They therefore appealed to the NHIC to provide vehicles and other logistics to enable them to perform their functions satisfactorily to ensure the success of the health insurance scheme.

The Executive Secretary of the NHIC, Ras Boateng, said in an interview that the council has “engaged a consultant to help design human resource policies to guide the day-to-day running of the health insurance scheme programme.”

This will include a manual which will guide the employment and total management of the scheme.

On the issue of logistics, he indicated that the council has gone through a procurement process to acquire computers and vehicles for all the scheme offices to enhance their activities.

The council has already distributed 350 computers to some of the offices and will soon acquire 800 more computers and 140 vehicles, he said.

Mr. Boateng who opened the workshop said it forms part of the council’s efforts to ensure sustainability of funds derived from subscribers and government to manage the scheme especially in the payment of claims.

He said that the collection of contributions from members and the total efficiency in processing and management of claims from service providers is key to the survival and sustainability of the DMHIS.

When fully operational, he said, claims could account for 70 per cent of the volume of work of the DMHIS and therefore tasked the managers to perform their work with the highest efficiency.

Mr.Boateng also spoke about the collection of contributions from the informal sector which he described as vital for building a sustainable fund for the schemes and urged the managers to persuade even the poor to pay at least the minimum premium to access free health care for a whole year.

Procurement Board Launches Website

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Thursday, 06 July 2006 (Page 4)

The Public Procurement Board (PPB) on Tuesday launched a website in Accra to enhance the dissemination of information relating to public procurement in the country.

The website, www.ppbghana.org, provides information on the activities of the PPB and serves as a forum for advertisement for all procurement entities that fall under the scope of application of the law.

The site features tender notices, contract awards, procurement plans, history of Public Procurement Act and Government Procurement Act, policies and guidelines of the board and other procurement information related information.

The Chief Executive of PPB, Agyenim Boateng Adjei, said that suppliers, contractors and consultants would be encouraged to advertise on the website noting “the media, civil society, NGOs and the general public can also send in articles, views and comments on our website”.

He said that the launching of the Public Procurement Model of Excellence Tool and Margins of the Preference for Domestic Suppliers, Contractors and Consultants are all geared towards ensuring that public procurement is carried out to ensure judicious, economic and efficient use of state resources.

He invited the public to send in their suggestions to the Board and contributions to enable the board to improve and perfect the website to serve the purpose of the Act and bring efficiency into the public procurement system in the country.

Launching, the website on behalf of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Nana Juabeng Sereboe, Chief Director said procurement accounts for 50 to 70 per cent of government total expenditure and therefore called for effective management of public procurement to obtain value for state spending.

He said that since 2001, government has made several efforts to regulate expenditure and instil discipline in public finances.

Pointing out that in the current global village; information technology is the main driving forces of business, he said: “It is therefore critical that as a country, we take advantage of electronic procurement which brings sellers and buyers together through the internet.”

Nana Sereboe expressed the hope that the website besides providing most of the relevant information on public sector procurements to all stakeholders, particularly the private sector, would also increase the level of healthy competition that guarantees value for money.

He urged the PPB not to limit information on the website to only notices on tenders and contract awards but to let it be a source of information to guide the public on procurement.

“Make it a well of knowledge for the thirsty players in the procurement system to drink,” he advised.