Wednesday, October 25, 2006

NAGRAT Refutes GNAT's Claims

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Wednesday, 25 October 2006 (Page 3)

The National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) says it never received an invitation by the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) to join in the current negotiations of new salaries for teachers.

It said the only invitation from GNAT dated August 3, asked the NAGRAT to send its proposals to be included in a proposal GNAT had drafted.

The letter, the association said, also requested the NAGRAT to nominate two of its members to serve on a committee tasked to draft the GNAT proposal and therefore contended that, the letter from GNAT had nothing to do with salary negotiations.

Speaking at a press conference in Accra yesterday, the president of the NAGRAT, Kwami Alorvi, said however that if even GNAT had extended any such invitation to NAGRAT to join it at the salary negotiations, it would have declined it.

The conference was held at the National Secretariat of NAGRAT at Kokomlemle, Accra, to clarify issues related to the current strike and to respond to certain allegations leveled against the association.

"This is because GNAT lacks the capacity to extend such invitation to NAGRAT simply because it is not our employer. GNAT is only a trade union just as NAGRAT. It is the employer that has the duty to invite its employee associations to negotiate with it," he explained.

Mr. Alorvi, whose address was interrupted frequently with loud applause, and shouts from the graduate teachers present, stated emphatically that no meeting had been held between NAGRAT and the government since they started the strike 46 days ago.

He said the only letters NAGRAT received were from the Ghana Employers Association and the Ghana Conference of Religions for Peace requesting to know NAGRAT’s grievances.

He therefore challenged government to produce any evidence of such meetings adding, "the nation needs to be told whether the meetings were convened by letter, phone calls or through messages carried by errand boys."

He said what NAGRAT had officially heard from the sector minister was that "government does not recognise it and so it should join GNAT before government could talk to it."

On the numerous appeals to return to the classroom, the NAGRAT president said: "We want to point out that NAGRAT, has received no such appeals from any quarters other than the Ghana Education Service."

He said NAGRAT, cannot dispute the fact that it has read about such purported appeals in newspapers and heard them on air. But he added, such appeals through the media were to them confirmation of how teachers were marginalised and disregarded by both the government and the public.

He rejected the contention by some people that the strike had entered its seventh week and consequently made its mark, it should be called off.

NAGRAT, he said, respects all those who wish to intervene and mediate but "we are sorry to say that we will prefer them maintaining the dignity we accord them rather than meddling in this case only to be eventually disappointed by the government."

The NAGRAT president also denied allegations that he was once an NDC Constituency chairman in the Volta Region, and had once contested and lost the GNAT leadership position.

When contacted, the General Secretary of GNAT, Mrs. Irene Duncan-Adanusah, said GNAT invited the NAGRAT to join in the drafting of the proposal but NAGRAT did not turn up.

"Before you go for the negotiations, you have to know the content of the proposal," she said.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Traders Abandon Kasoa Market

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Monday, 23 October 2006 (Page 3)

SOME of the traders affected by the demolition of the old Kasoa market, have defied the district assembly and created a new market at the Kasoa Zongo area.

As a result, the new District Assembly market has been abandoned leaving only a handful of traders to do business there.

Poor sales at the new assemly’s market and the lack of enthusiasm on the part of most traders to relocate to the new market are District Assembly.

A visit by the Times to the market last Tuesday, a market day, revealed that the market was almost empty although the sheds at the market according to authorities of the assembly had all been allocated to traders.

Another visit to the market at the Zongo however revealed brisk business activity there with no benefit to the district assembly’s office.

Traders occupaying the about 300-metre stretch market from the front of the Odupong Kpehe Rural Bank through the Kasoa Central Mosque to the Odikro’s Palace and around, are said not to be paying any tax to the assembly.

However, Times investigations have revealed that the leaderships of the Zongo area market collects ¢5,000 daily as tax from each trader.

The assembly’s Kasoa market on a non-market day could be likened to a cemetery as only a handful of traders are seen sitting by their wares with hardly any buyer coming their way while brisk business continues to go on at the demolished old market grounds.

Consequently the traders have called for the immediate closure of the Zongo market and also urged the assembly authorities to make the lorry park at the new market the last stop for all commercial vehicles from Accra and elsewhere.

They argued that commercial vehicles plying Kasoa have made the old market site their boarding station or last stop hence most people end up their journey and do business there rather than pay the extra fare to get to the new market.

When contacted, the District Chief Executive of the Awutu-Effutu Senya District Assembly, Solomon Abbam Quaye, said the situation had greatly affected the revenue of the assembly.

He confirmed that traders who were moved to the new market following the demolition of the old one were going back to the Zongo market.

As to whether the assembly collects tax from the traders at the Zongo market, he replied: "You dare not go there."

Mr. Abbam Quaye said the assembly had received a number of threats from some residents following the demolition of unauthorized structures along the major roads in the town last week.

The old Kasoa market was demolished in February this year, to decongest traffic in the area which has since the reduced significantly.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Transparency Campaign On Mining Launched

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Monday, 16 October 2006(Page 12)

A coalition of civil society organisation in Ghana has launched a mining sector revenue transparency campaign to hold government accountable for the management of revenue from the mining industries in the country.

The campaign, dubbed "Publish What You Pay (PWYP)" is under the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) that aims at improving natural resource governance in resource-rich countries through full publication and verification of company payments and government revenues from oil, gas and mining.

The initiative is also to promote sustainable development, reduce poverty and eliminate conflict and social tension in communities affected by extractive industries.

Speaking at the launch in Accra last week, the Coordinator of the campaign, Dr.Steve Manteaw said that the immediate causes of most of the violence characterising the mining sector in Ghana include irresponsible mining practices and failure on the mining companies to comply with compensation and resettlement agreements reached with communities.

"The reason most communities are up in arms today is that, while so much wealth is generated from mining and other extractives in the communities, the ordinary people become ever more impoverished," he said, adding that the pursuit of development through mineral exploitation is fast becoming an illusion in many developing countries.

"He said the EITI would provide a welcome opportunity of re-examining the institutional arrangements and mechanisms for minimising revenue leakages, to ensure that mining works for the people and contributes to national economic development.

"Transparency in the extractive sector is important not the least, because the sector resources are finite, non-renewable, but that the damage caused to the environment in exploiting them is long lasting", he stated.

"For which reason, we as a people must ensure that dividends from such undertakings are utilised responsibly, transparently, and to the benefit of all, especially those immediately and negatively affected by extractive activities", he added.

He noted that most extractive resource-rich developing countries score poorly on good governance indicator rankings and are found at the bottom third of Transparency International’s annual ranking of countries by perception of corruption.

The Economic Programme Officer of Open Society Initiative for West Africa, Michel Saraka Kouame said that West Africa has about 10 per cent of the world’s natural resources yet its citizenry continues to suffer from poverty.

He attributed the situation to the African leaders’ mismanagement of the natural resources.

He expressed his organisation’s support for the successful implementation of the programme to ensure better lives for the citizenry.

Cocoa Producer Price Increased

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Saturday, 14 October 2006 (Page 3)

THE government has increased the producer price of cocoa from ¢9 million to ¢9.150 million per tonne.

Consequently, a 64 kilogramme of cocoa now costs ¢571,875 as against the ¢562,500 in the 2005/2006 cocoa season.

A total of ¢178.2 billion is also to be paid as bonus to cocoa farmers for the just ended main crop season.

The Finance and Economic Planning Minister, Kwadwo Baah Wiredu, announced this yesterday at a press conference in Accra to officially open the 2006/2007 main crop season.

He said the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) has mobilised 810 million dollars for purchasing operations this year, adding, "We therefore have adequate funding to cover all cocoa purchases estimated to be ¢5.49 trillion".

He said with the exception of the 2004/2005 cocoa season,the government has since 2001 paid a total of ¢608.9 billion as bonuses to cocoa farmers.

"Following the increase in the producer price and the payment of bonus for the 2005/2006 main crop season purchases, an additional amount of ¢268.2 billion will be available to our cocoa farmers."

Mr.Baah Wiredu said the government was also committed to ensuring that all stakeholders in the cocoa industry were paid economic rates and fees to ensure the profitability of their businesses.

As a result, he said, increases in buyers’ margin for licensed buying companies, hauliers’ rates for evacuation among others and other charges, had been approved by the government to ensure that the cocoa industry, which occupies a centre stage in the country’s economy, sustains the gains made in the past six years.

The government attaches great importance to the cocoa sector and has consequently committed itself to ensuring that the necessary assistance is given to the cocoa sector, he said.

The government, he said, has for the past six years implemented various policy initiatives to increase producer prices and payment of bonuses, added value to cocoa products and modernised practices on cocoa farms.

Mr.Baah-Wiredu said cocoa output in the country has doubled since the 2000/2001 crop season, and has consequntly consolidated the country’s position as the world’s second largest producer of cocoa.

He said that in spite of the gains, the just-ended season encountered major challenges such as inadequate jute sacks, purple beans, and congestion at the take-over centres as well as delayed payments for cocoa purchased from farmers.

Government, he said, has also embarked on the tarring of a number of selected roads in the remote cocoa growing areas to facilitate the carting of the bagged cocoa beans to the depots .

The Chief Executive of COCOBOD,Isaac Osei said Ghana produced 740,457 tonnes of cocoa in the just-ended season, adding that it had forecasted 600,000 tonnes of cocoa for this season.

He said the COCOBOD has targeted producing a million tonne of cocoa in the near future noting that “currently, we are having increases in regions like the Brong Ahafo and Ashanti”.

Mr.Osei said the it has provided the Ghana Armed Forces 12 vehicles to patrol on the Ghana-Cote d’Iviore border to check smuggling of cocoa which he said is an economic phenomenon.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Gov't To Start Dialogue With NAGRAT Next Week

By Stephen kwabena Effah
Friday, 13 October 2006 (Page 3)

THE Ministry of Education, Science and Sports, will next week begin negotiations with the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) to resolve the current impasse on the teachers’ front.

The sector minister, Papa Owusu Ankomah, announced this, and said there is a negotiating process that government is following.

The Minister made this known when responding to a question at a special Meet-the-Press yesterday which brought together four sector ministers to address issues on wages, salaries and the NAGRAT strike in Accra.

The other three ministers were Finance and Economic Planning Minister, Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, Manpower, Youth and Employment Minister, Boniface Abubakar Saddique and Public Sector Reforms Minister Paa Kwesi Nduom.

Papa Ankomah said the resolution of the strike by NAGRAT requires self discipline, restraint and cooperation with all, adding that the ministry’s directive to heads of schools to engage local teachers while the strike is on, is only a temporary measure to manage the crisis.

He asked the members of NAGRAT to join GNAT which has a bargaining certificate to negotiate conditions of service on behalf of all teachers.

Asked whether NAGRAT will be issued its own bargaining certificate, the Minister said that the government cannot subvert the law, adding that "The Ministry does not have the power to say that NAGRAT should be given a bargaining certificate to stand alone".

He appealed to the striking teachers to return to the classrooms, saying that "the effect of their action is very serious".

For his part, Mr. Baah-Wiredu said the GES requires ¢31.1 trillion for wages and other related remuneration.

This, he said, is difficult to meet because the total national revenue projected for the 2007 fiscal year is ¢31.5 trillion.
He explained that Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product for the year is ¢112.6 trillion and domestic revenue ¢26.4 trillion, out of which ¢14 trillion is used to service wages and related issues.

He said that the GDP for next year has been put at ¢128 trillion with a projected domestic revenue of 31.5 trillion.

The finance minister indicated that 53.1 per cent of Ghana’s total revenue goes to pay the wages of the 500,000 workers in the public service.

He said that the country’s ability to pay more wages depends on its ability to generate more revenue, stressing "we cannot overtask ourselves. When one sector is demanding the total revenue where do we fall at?"

Calling for exercise of patience by workers, Mr. Baah-Wiredu said that spending so much time dealing with strikes in the middle of a fiscal year would not help the development of the country.

He recalled that when he was the Minister of Education, about 70 per cent of his time was spent on labour issues at that ministry and said although progress has been made towards better wages for workers, it is still not the best.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

IPS Alumni Intervenes

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Saturday, 07 October 2006 (Page 19)

The Alumni of the Institute of Professional Studies (IPS) has intervened in the impasse between the authorities and the student body in a bid to resolve the issue and get the students back to campus by next week.

In a meeting with the students’ body on Wednesday, the alumni convinced them to call off their planned demonstration yesterday.

The National Union Secretary of the IPS, Sampson Quansah, told the Times in an interview yesterday, that the alumni had assured the students that it would meet the school authorities to discuss how best to solve the problem to enable the students to return to campus by next week.

"The students cannot afford being out of campus since that would affect them greatly," he said, adding that most of the students are expected to commence their examination next month."

For his part, the president of the Chartered Accountant, Students Society, Dominic Naab, said that their decision to call off the strike was in part due to the absence of the Ministers for Education, Science and Sports at post yesterday.

He said that they are waiting for the outcome of the alumni’s effort to determine the line of action to be taken next.

An alumnus of IPS, Francis Dadzie, said they would today, meet the interim Students Representative Council set up by the school authorities.

He said that the alumni are very much concerned about the situation at the Institute, saying that "as an alumni, whatever happens has an impact on us".

Thursday, October 05, 2006

What Is Conflict Of Interest?

By Stephen Kwabena Effah & Lizzy-Ann Nyama
Thursday, 05 October 2006 (Page 3)

The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) says the insufficient definition of, or code of conduct for public officers on, conflict of interest in the Constitution makes the processing of allegations before it a difficult task.

"The 1992 Constitution cautions public officers against placing themselves in conflict of interest positions, but does not provide sufficient definition or guide to conflict of interest," said Richard Quayson, CHRAJ’s Deputy Commissioner of Public Education and Anti-Corruption.

Mr. Quayson said this at a workshop organized by the CHRAJ in Accra yesterday, for media practitioners, to elicit their inputs to draft guidelines on conflict of interest developed by the commission.

The guidelines are designed to protect the integrity of official policy, administrative decisions and of public management.

Mr. Quayson said conflict of interest is a complex issue that reflects the structural problems of civilized society and relates to several facets.

He said that corruption and abuse of political and administrative powers for self-interest whether by an individual, group or party, is a problem in Africa that has disastrous damaging effect on both the public and private sectors.

The situation therefore requires policy-makers, government, public officials and all partners to "rethink and renew the national consciousness with new values and new cultural orientation aimed at avoiding and preventing those consequences that readily lead them to corruption".

Mr.Quayson said it was in this direction that the commission had designed the guidelines to, among other things, provide a general framework for determining conflict of interest situations and also guide public officials in the conduct of public business to address unethical behaviour in all public offices.

"An important strategy of the commission’s corruption prevention programme is to promote transparent and accountable practices, and built-in safeguards to minimize the possibility of the decision-making process being compromised by self interest," he stressed.

Presenting a paper on "The Anti-Corruption Mandate of CHRAJ", the acting Commissioner, Ms. Anna Bossman, said the insufficient definition on conflict of interest in the constitution "has not affected the commission’s work much" but added that there is the need to clarify the issue.

Group Calls For Law To Protect PLWHAs

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Wednesday, 04 October 2006 (Page 4)

The Ghana Network of Persons Living with HIV/AIDS (NAP+ Ghana) has called on the country’s legislators to merge all HIV/AIDS policies into one law to protect the interest of PLWHAs.

"Policies are but administrative measures which do not wield the same level of compulsion as laws do," Major Moses Adraku (rtd), president of the network said at a workshop on HIV/AIDS law in Ghana in Accra yesterday.

However, Health Minister, Major Courage Quashigah (rtd), thinks the compulsive aspect of law may result in a backlash, build unnecessary resentment towards PLWHA and worsen their plight.

He said, "It may also erode or undermine the little remaining social support system available for PLWHA and their dependents," and therefore asked the network to understand the implications of such a law.

The two-day workshop was organized by the network to enable stakeholders examine the possibility of formulating a law to safeguard the interest of PLWHAs.

Major Quashigah said since the stigma and mysticism associated with people with HIV/AIDS have not been sufficiently dealt with and "indeed cannot be dealt with through legislation, people are going to find ingenious ways of circumventing the law".

Major Adraku indicated that the major challenges confronting PLWHAs in Ghana are stigmatisation and discrimination which limit the meaningful involvement of PLWHA in the national response programmes.

As a result, he said that PLWHAs remain largely invisible and decisions are made for them without their involvement stressing that, "indeed stigmatising environment remains one of the most agonizing and painful challenges in controlling the pandemic".

"Currently, there is no law, or an act of parliament in Ghana passed with specific reference to how persons living with HIV/AIDS or affected by AIDS should be treated or which gives them any adequate rights or protection," he indicated.

Major Adraku said that although there are good provisions in other laws that can be used to adjudicate HIV/AIDS, such provisions are not HIV/AIDS-sensitive, stressing that PLWHAs need greater protection from aggressive persons in the communities.

The UN AIDS Representative in Ghana, Dr. Warren Naamara, said that discrimination against PLWHA in the country "is a sign of ignorance and poor application of laws".

He noted that the country’s human rights and criminal laws are not adequately applied, saying "we will do well if these laws are appropriately applied".

By putting in place proper laws, he said stigmatisation and discrimination in the country would reduce to the barest minimum.

He expressed the UN AIDS support for the network and Ghana AIDS Commission in the national response programmes.