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Friday, June 29, 2007

2 Found Dead At Printing Press

By Stephen K.Effah
Tuesday, 26 June 2007


Two people were found dead in the early hours of yesterday in a commercial printing house near the Kotobabi Police Station, where they were working throughout the night reportedly to meet a deadline.

Henry Laryea, 30, and Joseph Asrah, 25, are suspected to have died from suffocation caused by fumes from a power generator they had placed in the room.

The room had no openings for ventilation, apart from the front and back doors.When the Times got to the scene yesterday at about 11:30 am, the police were conveying the bodies wrapped in blue body bags to the Police Hospital.

For about two hours, there was a traffic jam on the Abavana-Kotobabi road as onlookers thronged the area to catch a glimpse of the dead bodies.

An eyewitness, Eric Martey, told the Times that the two people started work at about 1 pm on Sunday and around 6pm, they switched on a power generator when power supply from the national grid went out as a result of the load shedding.

However, 10: 15pm, the two people moved the generator, which was outside, to the room and locked themselves up while they were printing.

Mr.Martey said that the owner of the store only opened the door yesterday morning to find the two workers dead.

Briefing the Times later, DSP Edward Faakye-Kumi,Kotobabi District Police Commander, said that the Laryea and Asrah were working together with the owner of the printing press, Augusta Yeboah, until 10 pm last Sunday when she left them for home.

He said the two, who apparently had a deadline to meet, decided to work overnight and fearing that their power generator may be stolen, moved it to the main compound of the house.

According to Mr. Faakye-Kumi, at about 11 pm when the owner got home, she called the office and Laryea told her that the generator was taken to the compound of the house but the landlord had complained that it was making noise.

As a result, they moved it to the printing room, covered it with a box and locked the main door, leaving the back door to the store room.

Ms.Yeboah is said to have asked the two to stop the printing and concentrate on clipping the photocopies they had made, after she had been told by Laryea that the generator had overheated.

Mr Faakye-Kumi said Ms.Yeboah came to open the store yesterday morning, only to encounter a smoke-filled room with the lights switched on and the generator running.

Asrah was found lying beside the photocopying machine and Laryea beside the generator.

Thinking that the two were sleeping, Ms Yeboa reportedly tried to wake them up, but realised their breath had ceased. She raised the alarm which attracted people to the scene and a report was made to the Kotobabi Police.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Major Split In GNAT

By Stephen K.Effah
Thursday, 31 May 2007


There seems to be a split on the front of the largest teachers’ trade union in the country-Ghana National Association of Teachers. This follows the formation of a group known as National Progressive Teachers Association (NAPTA).

The acting National Coordinator of the new association, Budu Yaw Asamoa, said NAPTA has been in existence since the latter part of last year, and has a membership of 60,000, although it is yet to be launched officially.

He noted that the formation of the association, stems from the failure of GNAT to meet the genuine demands of teachers over its 76 years of operation.

At a news conference in Accra on Tuesday, Mr.Asamoa alleged that the Teachers’ Fund set up with contributions from teachers was not accessible to most of them because "the rate chargeable for loan from the mutual fund, attracts 35 per cent way above the Bank of Ghana prime rate.

" Also teachers aged above 45 years cannot access the fund yet "they can still contribute to the fund."Mr. Asamoa alleged that a number of plots of land bought with funds from the mutual fund are nowhere to be found, adding that, they have been resold among the leadership, creating the impression that there was a litigation over the land.

He said that GNAT has failed to partner government to sponsor teachers for further courses, and rather turn round to blame government.

Mr. Asamoa said the association has decided to take a legal action against the GNAT over what it termed "unlawful" deductions from the salaries of NAPTA members.

He told the Times that NAPTA has consulted its lawyer for the preparation of the necessary documentation for the action.

Currently, he said GNAT through the Controller and Accountant General deducts membership dues immediately new teachers names are entered in the Ghana Universal Pay Structure, after training without their consent.

Quoting the Ghana Education Act 506, he said: "No amount shall be taken from the emolument of an employee without the consent of that employee in writing through the Minister of Education."

He added, "Joining GNAT has been compulsory. Teachers have no option than to become automatic members after initial training," explaining that such action is in contravention of the constitution, which guarantees freedom of association.

"This to most members is not the best and must be stopped due to the introduction of the new Labour Act," he said and added that it takes a teacher six months to officially notify GNAT in writing that he or she is not a member of the association and therefore should stop the deduction of dues from their salary.

Mr. Asamoa expressed the association’s confidence in the new pay and educational reforms.

Reacting to some of the concerns raised by NAPTA, a source at the GNAT headquarters said although all GNAT membership dues are deducted upfront, article 32 of the GNAT constitution gives a teacher the opportunity to write officially to GNAT with the necessary documentation for the deduction to be stopped.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

ECONOMY RECORDS GROWTH

By Stephen K.Effah
Tuesday, 22 May 2007


The Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Dr. Paul Acquah, has described the economic activity in the first quarter of the year as robust, in spite of the ongoing load shedding exercise.

He said that the first quarter showed significant growth in imports and exports and strong corporate performance while the bank’s Composite Index of Economic Activity at the end of the quarter was up by 1.8 per cent and attributed it to employment, exports, commercial bank credit, imports and tourism.

He however noted that there were declines in port activities like cement sales and electricity consumption.

Presenting the Monetary Policy Committee report for the first quarter in Accra yesterday, Dr. Acquah said the country’s current debt stands at 2.7 billion dollars and added that total merchandise exports at the end of March amounted to 1,044.8 billion dollars which was an increase of 12 per cent over the fourth quarter of last year.

Total imports at the end of the quarter, he said, amounted to 1,822.71 billion dollars, a growth of 15.8 per cent over that of the first quarter of last year.

"Crude oil imports amounted to 415.43 million dollars, about 24 per cent above the 379.79 million dollars recorded in the first quarter of 2006, reflecting an increase in volume, as the average price declined by 6.7 per cent," he said, adding that the country’s trade deficit narrowed from 842.25 million dollars in the fourth quarter of last year to 778.63 million dollars at the end of the first quarter of this year,

The country’s external current account he said, recorded a deficit of 482.8 million dollars compared to a deficit of 181 million dollars before debt relief recorded in the first quarter of last year.

On the 2007 budget, Dr Acquah said, provisional banking sector data on its implementation indicates that total receipts for the first four months of 2007 amounted to ¢14,402.7 billion.

He said total revenue and grants amounted to ¢10,758.9billion and total payments for the first four months of 2007 amounted to ¢15,962.7 billion, all of which resulted in a deficit of ¢1,560 billion.

The governor said headline inflation continued to be stable on its downward trend but showed an up-pick in April to 10.5 per cent due to unusual increases in food prices attributed to supply conditions.

He said the BoG has formally announced the adoption of an inflation targeting framework measuring inflation as its principal variable for tracking underlying inflation in the country.

He said the monetary policy committee has decided to keep the prime rate unchanged at 12.5 per cent as the risks in the outlook are well balanced.

The Governor said the total assets of the banking industry rose by 41.6 billion per cent to ¢56,275.7 billion over the year to March 2007 compared to 24 per cent a year ago.

"Net loans and advances increased by 58.1 per cent to reach ¢26,354.7 billion in March 2007, compared with 41.8 per cent for the preceding year," he said.

He said the quality of the banking industry’s loan portfolio improved while non performing loans ration declined to 6.9 per cent from 7.9 per cent in December, last year.

Dr.Acquah noted that the country’s reserve money broadly declined at a somewhat more rapid pace in the first quarter of the year.

Friday, May 18, 2007

25 Trafficked Children Re-Unite With Families

By Stephen K.Effah, Ekumpoano
Thursday, 17 May 2007


After years of servitude with fishermen at Kete-Krachi in the Volta Region, 25 children were on Tuesday re-united with their families.


The children, aged between six and 16 years, were ‘loaned out’ to the fishermen through middlemen for various sums of money. They were from the Eastern, Greater Accra, Western and Central Regions.


It was a mixed feeling of guilt and regrets as the parents gathered here to receive their children who were rescued by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), a non-governmental organisation.


Some of the children, their families and the crowd that gathered to witness the ceremony wept while others empathised with them when some of the parents narrated the reasons for giving out their children into servitude.


The re-integration followed the end of a three-month rehabilitation programme at the Department of Social Welfare Rehabilitation Centre at Madina in Accra.


The children, among other things, were also taken through a psychosocial counselling and guidance session at the centre to enable them to overcome the trauma they went through, help build trust, gain their self-worth and take decisions that affect their lives.


Joseph Rispoli, head of the Technical Cooperation Unit of IOM, said the re-unification exercise is to give the children the opportunity to grow and develop within the family setting in a loving and caring home environment.


"We strive to get to the point where all children enjoy being nurtured and cared for by loving, warm and generous parents who put their children’s interest before their own," he said and added that, since the rescue project started in 2002, 612 trafficked children have been rescued, rehabilitated, returned and re-integrated.


He said the parents and guardians of the children, have also been provided with micro-credit assistance in the form of community revolving loans, inputs, skills training and credit management training.


He said the IOM is working closely with the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs and other relevant stakeholders to finalise a national plan of action on human trafficking and to contribute to the newly created Human Trafficking Board and Human Trafficking Fund.


While advising parents to uphold their responsibilities towards their children and live up to their roles as primary caregivers, Mr. Rispoli also urged the children to respect their parents and the elderly in their communities.


Ms. Sharon Abbey, Principal of the rehabilitation centre, identified signs of abuse on the children saying, "Their hairs were unkempt, had skin rashes, ear infections, ulcer, craked lips, soles and bilharzia."


She said health screening and medical treatment were conducted on the children to ensure that they were cleared of diseases.


She said the children were also introduced to classroom work to enable them to adjust well in the normal schools after re-integration adding, "23 out of the 25 expressed the wish to go to school while two have decided to learn a trade".

Monday, May 14, 2007

Ghana's Decentralisation Lacks Implementation - Dr. Gariba

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Saturday, 12 May 2007


The Executive Director of the Institute for Policy Alternative, Dr. Sulley Gariba, has said in spite of the strong legal basis for Ghana’s decentralisation, its implementation so far has been lagging.

That, he attributed to weak capacity for implementation coupled with lack of sufficient resources and personnel among others, adding "there is not much physical decentralisation".

He observed that there were some contradictions in the decentralisation legislations and called for the need to harmonise them.

He indicated that there has been a marginalisation of metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies in the implementation of the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy as the various ministries have been assigned the lead role.

Speaking at a best practice workshop on decentralisation in Ghana on Tuesday, he said that, for in stance there is no prescribed role for MMDAs on HIV/AIDS under the GPRS, although the national AIDS strategy has considerable focus on district level strategies and actions.

The two-day workshop is being organised by the Institute of Local Government Studies and sponsored by CIDA with support from the District Capacity Building Project (DISCAP).

It seeks to increase popular participation in governance, improve public accountability and increase public sector effectiveness.

Dr.Gariba further expressed concern about the flow of resources to the MMDAs which is done through the central ministries for projects implementation.

He also noted that there is incomplete transfer of financial and human resources to MMDAs and with continuing legislative overlap.

He explained that some personnel who owe allegiance to the central ministries and ought to have been transferred to the MMDAs as indicated in the Local Government Act have still not been transferred.

"Even within the current context, it is possible to enhance decentralisation and achieve improved results," he pointed out.

He said as decentralisation policy is fully implemented best practices should continue to provide useful lessons and models.

Dr.Chris Brown, a Canadian Team Leader of DISCAP, indicated that as a result of these challenges, the desired outcome objectives of decentralisation has not yet been achieved.

He said policy process for and about local government is still dominated by the central governments.

Monday, April 30, 2007

13 UEW Students Die In 4 Months

By Stephen K. Effah, Winneba
Monday, 30 April 2007


Thirteen students of the University of Education, Winneba have died since the beginning of this year.

The causes of death are however not known as the post-mortem reports on their deaths were submitted direct to their families by hospital authorities.

Alarmed at this development, the authorities have decided that starting from next academic year, a yearly medical examination of all its students will be conducted to determine their health status.

Though the examination would not be compulsory, all students would be billed at an average of ¢50,000 for it.

The decision was agreed on jointly by the university authorities and the student leadership.

The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Jophus Anamuah-Mensah, announced this when the MP for Awutu Effutu-Senya and Deputy Minister of Health, Samuel Owusu-Agyei, presented assorted medical items valued at ¢15 million through the UEW branch of TESCON to the university clinic.

He said the university with the support of Barclays Bank, Ghana, is putting up a ¢1 billion clinic at the campus for the screening and to serve students who fall sick.

He noted that students who fall sick on campus are unable to access medical attention at the various hospitals because of lack of funds and as a result, most of them instead of having thorough check-ups only get first aid treatment.

Prof. Anamuah-Mensah said that after the screeening those found to have emergency cases or serious sicknesses would be referred to a hospital, adding that those with minor cases would be given treatment on regular basis at the university’s clinic.

Legon Campus Crisis: 3 Students Arrested

By Stephen K. Effah
Monday, 30 April 2007

The second semester examination of the University of Ghana was nearly marred on Saturday morning as a result of the smearing of three examination centres with human excreta.

The faecal matter, suspected to have been the work of a group of the university’s students the night before, resulted in the postponement of one of the 17 papers, and a late start of papers that should have started at 7.30 am

History and Philosophy of Science papers which should have been written by level 300 students at the K.A.B. Jones Quartey Building, popularly known as "Tingitingi", was postponed indefinitely pending final determination by the university’s Director of Academic Affairs.

Meanwhile, DSP Michael Teku said three students from Commonwealth Hall have been arrested by police on suspicion of preparing to disrupt the examinations.

When the Times got to the university campus at 7 am, all was calm with both the police and the university security patrolling the campus.

Most study groups of the students were heard discussing the "shit bombing" while others were busily studying close to their various exams centres.

The university’s cleaners were also seen in hand gloves and nose masks busily cleaning up the mess and disinfecting the centres for the exams to start.

The K.A.B. Jones Quartey Building and new ‘N’ block where the faecal matter was spread all over on the floor, tables and chairs were the worst affected.

At the Central Cafeteria, the doors to the main hall were locked, as a result the faeces were poured in the room through the louvres.

At these centres, one could hardly breathe as the stench there was most ‘overpowering’ and even after the halls had been cleaned, most of the students who wrote their papers in adjoining halls continued to complain of the stench.

A number of the students, who spoke to the Times, commended the perpetrators for their action since it was the only option to let the university authorities know that they are against the ‘in’out’out’out’ accommodation policy.

Some students, on the other hand, condemned the act and urged the authorities to ensure that those involved were brought to book.

In an interview with the Times the Registrar of the University, T.A. Konu, described the incident as "disgusting and a behaviour that only befits animals and not university students."

He wondered why the perpetrators were able to undertake the act despite the fact that the doors were locked and were under strict security control and hinted that all university security personnel on duty at those centres would be dealt with.

Mr. Konu assured that the late start of some of the exams would not in any way affect the examination calendar, saying, "The exams will run according to schedule."

DSP Teku later told the Times that the Police were on the campus "because of law-abiding students. We are ready to protect students who are willing to write the exams. We will not talk to anybody or accost anyone."

He indicated that the fact that the police are holding arms does not mean they would be used against students, adding that the police were taking measures to protect those lecturers who were issued death threat by a group of students.

Landlords Accused Of Not Paying Property Returns

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Friday, 27 April 2007


A Deputy Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), John E.K Sotenga, has expressed concern about non compliance of returns on properties and rent incomes by some landlords.

He indicated that only 60 per cent of landlords pay tax on their properties and rent incomes in the country, adding, "self-compliance level is low. Quite a number of land lords are not coming."

Speaking at the third Revenue Week of the IRS on Wednesday, Mr.Sotenga said returns on properties and rent forms about five per cent of income taxes collected by the IRS.

Under the IRS Act 592 (2000), any person who earns income from rent is expected to furnish the IRS Commissioner with a return on the gross income the end of the year of assessment.

The seminar which was attended by directors, business executives, professional bodies, tax practitioners, accountants, auditors and pay masters, was aimed at making them understand their rights as tax payers and also the various penalties applicable to non compliance with tax laws.

Failure to pay returns within three months, he said attracts a 10 per cent penalty of the amount due and after three months, it attracts 20 per cent of the amount due.

He therefore appealed to land and property owners to comply with that aspect of the law which, he noted, many people are not aware of.

He said the IRS regularly carries out rent survey to improve property and rent tax in the country.

The Deputy Commissioner conceded that a number of Ghanaians are not conscious of section 108 of the IRS Act 592 which requires gifts to be taxed, saying that gifts received are supposed to be declared to the IRS for appropriate taxation.

He said because it is difficult to establish a mechanism to check non- compliance, many people are avoiding it but noted that it is along the line found as an individual submit returns on capital gains.

The Commissioner of IRS, Maj. Daniel S.Ablorh-Quarcoo (Rtd), advised tax administrators to share always accurate information with the IRS and co-operate with the service officials.

He observed that, often times, tax payers do not provide enough information to the IRS for appropriate taxation and therefore advised them against such acts.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Cocaine Barons In Jail-Break Attempt

By Stephen K.Effah & Edith Laari
Wednesday, 18 April 2007


A grand plot to break jail by 13 inmates in custody at the James Fort Prison in Accra last week, was uncovered by the prison’s intelligence network.

The names of the 13 were not disclosed but according to the prison authorities, they are made up of three narcotic drug dealers and10 suspected armed robbers.

They allegedly conspired to raise money to hire thugs in town to attack the prison’s main gate to create confusion and avenue for escape.

They have since been transferred to the Nsawam Medium Security Prisons.

This came to light when the Minister of the Interior, Albert Kan-Dapaah and the Greater Accra Regional Minister, Sheikh I.C Quaye, toured the prison yesterday following the abortive plot.

Deputy Director of Prisons in charge of James Fort prison, Alhassan Kariba Legibo, said preliminary investigation revealed that the inmates had planned that the thugs would attack the prison guards at the main gate to the prison yard while they (the inmates) also attack the officers in the yard to escape.

He told the ministers that the action of the 13 inmates was reported to the Prison Headquarters which immediately ordered their transfer to the Nsawam Medium Security Prisons.

Mr. Legibo said about 100 out of the over 900 inmates in custody at the prison are there as a result of narcotic offences, and they constitute a threat to the prison’s security because the fort built in 1640, is "collapsing" with all the facilities broken down.

He also expressed concern about the lifestyle of the inmates, saying, "they don’t work, they just eat and sleep for the long period that some of them spend here".

This situation, coupled with the lack of a system for training and reformation hardens them especially because the inmates mingle together and they learn from each other.

Mr Legibo called for the speedy disposal of cases by the courts to ease the pressure on the prisons, citing the James Fort Prison which was designed to take 450 inmates but now has 966.

He appealed to the ministry to assist the prisons with the requisite tools for training of the inmates to equip them with vocational skills to enable them to lead responsible lives after their discharge.

Sheikh Quaye cautioned the inmates against any plan to escape from custody, saying they should shun all intentions of escaping from custody that would land them into another problem.

He said the authorities are making every effort to ensure that those who have their cases, hanging are heard speedily.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Health Surveillance System Advocated

By Stephen K. Effah, Dodowa
Wednesday, 11 April 2007


The Director of the Dodowa Health Research Centre, Dr. Margaret Gyapong has advocated a surveillance system in all 10 regions of the country to monitor new health threats in the country.

She explained that such a system, known as a "demographic surveillance system" would also help track population changes and assess policy interventions.

"The demographic surveillance system acts as a platform for any health intervention and generate data for planning," she said when members of the Africa Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN), visited the centre to acquaint themselves with its activities.

The trip, which was sponsored by Indepth Network, was also to sensitise the public and policy-makers to the centre’s on-going research works.

Dr. Gyapong said that at present, only Dodowa, Kintampo and Navrongo health centres in the Southern, Middle and Northern belts respectively are involved in the country’s demographic surveillance system.

She stated that the system is key to determining the level of reduction in child mortality, improved maternal health, malaria, HIV and other diseases as in the Millennium Development Goals.

"With demographic surveillance system in place, many MDG indicators can be produced annually," she noted and pointed out that the Dodowa demographic surveillance system has now become significant to the Dangme West district stressing, "it has now become useful to the district assembly for planning in the districts."

She added that the Dodowa demographic surveillance system plays a significant role in all the centre’s researches noting that the District Health Management Team has been using the system for its health interventions.

However, she mentioned the problem facing the system as the numerous requests for all kinds of data and its sustainability which she said is "costly."

Dr. Gyapong called for support for the maintenance of the demographic surveillance system so as to provide adequate and accurate information base for development.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

House Must Exercise Oversight Over Executive

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Wednesday, 14 March 2007


A law lecturer, Professor Henry Kwesi Prempeh has expressed concern about the non-existence of legislative oversight of the Executive in the country.

He observed that Parliament has failed to utilise its "approval power" to keep the President in check, noting that Parliament has the power to question or let the President justify the creation of new ministerial portfolios or appointments.

He noted that parliamentary majority has also ceded the appointment of the Speaker of Parliament to the President and at the same time lost its role as the leader of Parliament by the appointment of a Minister of Parliamentary Affairs by the Executive.

Prof. Prempeh, a lecturer in law at Seton Hall University Law School, in the USA, made the observation in Accra on Monday, at a roundtable discussion on the topic, "Progress Towards the Rule of Law and Constitutionalism in Ghana."

It was organised by the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) Ghana to commemorate the country’s golden jubilee.

Prof. Prempeh questioned the Executive’s supremacy in law making, which he said provides avenue for wide discretionary powers, adding that the Executive discretion is even widespread in making subsidiary legislation.

He indicated that the statutory grants of rules making authority to the Executive often leave individual ministers, and for that matter the President, wide discretion to apply provisions of the law to individual cases with little or no regulatory guidance to constrain such discretion.

He explained that since government must rule through law, it is necessary that anything designed to have the force of law could become law unless it had been enacted in accordance with constitutionally approved process.

On judicial function and constitutionalism, he said that there is a low level of legal literacy, which has come as a result of under reporting of judicial decisions.

Prof. Prempeh described as "problematic," the unregulated administrative discretion of the Chief Justice within the judiciary.

That, he said, creates risk and the perception of compromising the decisional independence of lower level judges.

In spite of challenges, he lauded the respect for "constitutional commands" in the fourth republican constitution.

He said these included freedom of speech and the media, improved climate of liberty and civilian control of the military.

Friday, February 16, 2007

'Drug Abuse Leads To Shorter Life Span'

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Friday, 16 February 2007


Seventy per-cent of people who become drug abusers in their teens die by the age of 45, earlier than their normal lifespan, Dr. George Osei, Medical Director of the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, has said.

He said those who are introduced to drugs after the age of 20 also have their lifespan reduced by 25 years.

Giving a talk at the Ngleshie Amanfro Secondary School in the Ga West District on the topic "Drug Abuse", he said the other 30 per cent of those introduced to hard drugs like cocaine and heroin also get complica-tions such as cancer and mental illness.

The programme was organised by the Parent Teacher Association of the school to educate the students on the effects of drug abuse.

Dr.Osei noted that about 30 per cent of the patients between 15 and 40 years at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital are there because of drug abuse.

"Drug abuse is having serious effects on the people engaged in it," he said, adding that drugs interfere with the function of the brain which brings a certain level of excitement and makes users think they are being helped.

Apart from the brain, he noted that hard drugs sometimes interrupt the normal function of the heart, kidney and the pancreas.

He advised the students to stay away from hard drugs and unprescribed drugs to avoid jeopardising their future. They should rather focus on their studies to become good and responsible citizens.

There was also a quiz on Ghana at 50 during which the students were asked questions ranging from political to economic history of Ghana.

Monday, February 12, 2007

‘Remove Parliamentary, A-GD Reps From Procurement Board’

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Monday, 12 February 2007


AN economist, Kwame Pianim, has described the Public Procurement Act as "cumbersome," and called for the exclusion of representatives of Parliament and Attorney General’s Department from the Public Procurement Board.

He explained that representatives of the two institutions already have busy schedules, saying "these are all busy people, so to get them to review procurements is difficult.

"They are also not necessarily experts in procurement and so they should not be on the board," he said, in an interview with the Times after the opening of the third joint review meeting of the Private Sector Development Strategy and Action Plan in Accra last Friday.

This was in reaction to concerns raised by the participants on delays in the procurement processes.

He noted for instance that it could take an organisation about six months to go through the procurement processes to recruit an expert or acquire a vehicle.

He called for the removal of the cumbersome processes while ensuring that people remain accountable for their jobs.

Mr. Pianim, who was the chairman for the occasion, said representatives from Parliament and the A-G’s Department "are supposed to be doing some work that they do not even have time to do," stressing that their job is to make sure that rules and laws concerning businesses are done properly.

He said that Parliament, for example, represents the sovereign people of the country, and explained that when one misspend funds, it goes to the Public Accounts Committee, which has the time to investigate.

"You cannot be a hunter and also be one of the people being hunted" he said and added: "I don’t think we need the A-G and Parliament to be represented. Parliamen-tarians have no business to be on the Procurement Board."

"They supervise to ensure that things are done properly and should not be part of those recommending the expenditures," he said.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Elephantiasis, Oncho Alert !

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Wednesday, 07 February 2007


AN estimated half of Ghana’s population is at risk of contracting elephantiasis and another four million of onchocerciasis.


This is because these people live in places where the vector and the parasite exist in the country, Professor John Gyapong, Director of Health Research and Management of the Neglected Tropical Diseases NTD of the Ghana Health Service, told newsmen in Accra yesterday.


He also noted that the majority of children in the country, have all kinds of intestinal worm; a situation which is affecting their performance in school.


Prof. Gyapong was speaking at a stakeholders meeting on NTD to discuss a two-year intervention programme developed by the USAID to eliminate NTD to a level that would no longer be public health significance in Ghana by 2015.


He described the NTD situation in Ghana as "pretty much alarming" and noted that the interventions had come at the right time that Ghana is making effort to address the situation saying "it will galvanize all these programmes to manage the situation"


He said NTDs disproportionately affect the health and ruin the lives of people in developing countries, noting "at least one billion people currently suffer from one or more of these diseases worldwide".


In Africa alone, schistosomiasis (bilharzia) affects at least 160 million people out of whom at least 30 million suffer permanent life-threatening complications, he said.


He said that human suffering represented by the figures is enormously greater than the 270 cases of avian influenza reported globally over the past three years yet the neglected tropical diseases are seen not to threaten international health and security.


He said the NTDs occur almost in impoverished populations, adding that the diseases flourish in areas where water supply and sanitation are inadequate, and insects and other disease vectors are constant household and occupational companions.


Prof.Gyapong explained that the consequences of the diseases go beyond severe damage to health.


He mentioned years of agricultural productivity,inefficient land use, food insecurity and missed days at school as some of the burden of NTDs.


The Director-General of Ghana Health Service, Professor Agyemang Badu Akosah, expressed regrets that parliamentarians are using their share of the district assembly’s common fund for infrastructure to the neglect of health problems in the districts.


He therefore appealed to them and district chief executives to use some of the fund for health interventions.


Dr.George Amofa, Director of Public Health, called for massive community investment to be able to make impact in the control of neglected tropical diseases.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sodom, Gomorrah rebuilds

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Five days after a fierce fire gutted Sodom and Gomorrah, a slum in Accra, the residents have started rebuilding the wooden structures to serve as homes.

When the Times visited the affected area yesterday, some residents had finished putting up their structure, made up of plywood, and painted them after the lands were filled with saw dust. Others were seen busily at work.

A fierce fire last Thursday swept through the area and destroyed property worth millions of cedis.

Most of the residents who could not start work immediately have erected wooden pillars on their plots to prevent other people from encroaching upon them.

Those who spoke to the Times,accused the government of being insensitive to their plight.

They said that although some government officials visited the area after last Thursday’s disaster, no assistance has been received.

One of the victims, Mohammed Hamdu, said Nii Tackie Commey,Member of Parliament for Odododiodio, Isaac Amo, Director of NADMO and Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, Minister of Tourism and Diaspora Relations had inspected the area after the disaster and said "We cannot understand why the government has abandoned us to our fate."

In November last year, the Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing,Hackman Owusu-Agyeman, announced that government has acquired land at Adjen-Kotoku near Amasaman to relocate the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

'Police, Media Need To Fight Crime'

By Stephen Kwabena Effah, Dodowa
Saturday, 20 January 2007


The Minister for the Interior, Albert Kan-Dapaah, has called for a responsible media reportage and a broader education on the complex activities in the country’s criminal justice system.

"Indeed, I have heard it argued that we should seek to institutionalise the media as a regular pillar in the criminal justice system," he said.

Speaking at workshop on combating organised crime here yesterday, he explained that such initiative would make the torch of press freedom burn brighter to guide media practitioners in their role towards peace, security and prosperity of the country.

The two day workshop, oganised by the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) in conjunction with the British High Commission is on the theme: "The Role of the Media in Combating Organised Crime"

Editors, senior journalists and police personnel are discussing ways to improve media-police relations to enhance cooperation to expose organised crime.

The participants will also identify challenges facing the media in crime reporting and security issues, and encourage the police to provide protection to media personnel in their line of duty.

Mr.Kan-Dapaah said that criminologists have established that crime coverage presents negative image regarding the effectiveness of the police and the courts in controlling crime and punishing criminals, adding "news coverage fails to educate readers on the factors leading to crime or how to avoid personal victimization".

Crime and its related activities, he said, pose unbearable effects on the economic dynamics and security of a country, noting "governments lose billions in tax revenues from criminal activities".

He noted that although the criminal justice institutions for combating crime have shown to be doing their best, they still have limited capacity to match the regularity and sophistication of organised crime in recent times.

He therefore advocated a new approach to involve all stakeholders in the country to confront the menace, saying that the portrayal of the police as "toothless bulldogs" in the media urges people to tempt them.

"When we write to ridicule the police as toothless bulldogs, don’t we end up encouraging criminals?"

The president of the GJA, Ransford Tetteh, appealed to the police to provide greater protection for journalists as a result of the high level of occupational hazard.

He said that although journalists are not police offcers, their role in society requires them to be watchdogs of society.

He said the approach, methodology and mode of execution sometimes result in disagreement but advised that such situation should not lead to antagonism which may result in physical attacks on media personnel as was the case last year.

The British High Commissioner, Gordon Wetherell, said fighting organised crime is important in itself, especially as Ghana celebrates its 50th anniversary and pledged the assistance of the United Kingdom in this and other related cases.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Government Secretarial School Hit By Protests

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Friday, 19 January 2007


Students of the Government Secretarial School in Accra on Wednesday went on a five-hour demonstration to register their protest against the school’s acting principal.

Wearing red arm bands, caps and headgears, the students numbering over 100, gathered at the school as early as 8:00 am amidst chanting of war songs that brought academic and administrative activities to a halt.

At 9:45 am, when the acting Principal, Samuel Tetteh arrived, the students started shouting "go away, go away" "you must go" and they would not heed pleas for calm by some members of staff.

They refused to go to their classrooms and turned down Mr.Tetteh’s invitation to meet with their leadership. Rather they proceeded to the Office of the Head of Civil Service where they presented a petition received by the Chief Director, Edward Barnes.

Speaking to the Times, a spokesperson for the students, Mary Colnerrosse gave a catalogue of grievances, accusing the principal of arbitrariness and corruption.

She said that although their admission letters stated that they were to undergo an 18 month course beginning September 2005 to March 2007 Mr Tetteh had extended the period without any explanation.

She said that at a meeting with the students on Monday, January 15, Mr.Tetteh again announced the postponement of the release of the results of Stenographer Grade Two examination they wrote in November/December last year, from February to April.

She explained that although a person referred in a subject had two chances to write and pass the referred subjects before sitting for the Grade One examination, "Mr. Samuel told us that students referred in the Grade Two examination would write the referred paper in June, at the time others would be writing the final paper, that is the Grade One".

"This means that the referred candidates will write their grade one examination in December, and in that case we will be required to come for part time classes at a fee," she said.

She also said Mr.Tetteh was supposed to have gone on retirement last December and wondered why he was still at post. She therefore called for an immediate action to be taken on him.

Miss Colnerrosse again alleged that Mr.Tetteh repeatedly said that "our destiny is in his hands and since he failed his exams seven times, he will also fail us seven times".

Some members of staff expressed support for the students’ action describing the acting principal as a "dictator and morally corrupt person who does not want the school to progress."

They alleged that some students who failed their examinations were passed after paying bribes to the principal, ranging between ¢1.5 million and ¢2 million.

When contacted, Mr.Tetteh said, "I will not comment until I speak to my director"

The Government Secretarial School, located at Cantonments in Accra offers secretarial and business courses for senior secondary school leavers as well as refresher courses for secretaries and office administration.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

170 Babies To Test New Malaria Vaccine


By Stephen Kwabena Effah, Kintampo
Tuesday, 09 January 2007 (Page 3)


The Kintampo Health Research Centre (KHRC) is to recruit 170 babies at birth for the second phase of the Malaria Vaccine Trial now ongoing in the Kintampo North and South districts of the Brong-Ahafo Region.


Currently, only children aged between five and 17 months are participating in the two-year malaria vaccine trial which started last September, and is being sponsored by the Malaria Vaccine Initiative.


Dr. Seth Owusu-Adjei, Director of KHRC, said that half of the babies would be given the malaria vaccine alongside the routine polio and tuberculosis vaccines that are given children from the age of six weeks.


"The other half will go on the normal routine vaccinations and the two group would be evaluated later to determine the level of protection that they would have from the malaria vaccine and the level of protection they would have from the routine vaccination," he told a team of journalists.


This was at a Malaria Clinical Trials Alliance sponsored field trip for journalists from the Africa Media and Malaria Research Network to assess the progress of the malaria vaccine trial in the Kintampo districts.


Dr. Owusu-Adjei an epidemiologist, said the plan is going through "ethical approval" and explained that "the earlier you introduce protection for malaria into a child, the better."


"If the vaccine is able to achieve 50 per cent protection against severe malaria after the trial, then it could reduce the mortality from 20,000 to 10,000 annually in the country," he stated.


Dr. Owusu-Adjei said that other forms of malaria protections such as the insecticide-treated nets and intermittent preventive treatment in pregnant women, could also add up to the percentage and help to reduce the malaria burden dramatically.


Asked whether any of the tried participants had experienced an attack, since the trial began, he replied: "We’ve treated some of the kids for malaria," but pointed out that not every child in the trial is on the malaria vaccine.


He said the phase three of the project would begin next year and by 2011, it would be adopted by the government.

Psychiatric Units Needed In Districts

By Stephen Kwabena Effah, Kintampo
Monday, 08 January 2007 (Page 3)


A CLINICAL psychologist at the Kintampo Health Research Centre, Bright Akpalu, has advocated the establishment of psychiatric units in all districts to deal effectively with psychiatry cases.

He observed that lack of such units in the districts makes people take patients with mental problems to prayer camps which worsens their condition.

Speaking to the Times during a visit to the centre by a group of journalists, he said that sometimes when people with mental problems are taken to prayer camps they are subjected to human rights abuses including being chained and beaten.

The journalists from the Africa Media and Malaria Research Network were at the centre to assess the progress of the ongoing malaria vaccine trials in the district.

Mr Akpalu said it is proper to see a doctor immediately one sees a symptom of mental problem since some mental problems can be managed initially."

He noted that the Wenchi, Kintampo, and Tain districts have no mental health personnel to handle reported mental cases in those areas, although a research on schizophrenia conducted by the centre last year in the areas showed a high rate of mental disorders.

He attributed the disorders to genetic disposition, the use of marijuana, and depression.
Depression, he said, is one of the leading causes of psychiatric cases in Ghana which many people do not consider as a mental disorder.

He, therefore, advised those who find themselves in such situations to seek early medical attention. He also advised against the use of the alcoholic "bitters" and other forms of drugs as sexual stimulants, saying "It is a misconception about sex.

The 20-month malaria vaccine trial which is in its second phase started in September in Kintampo and Agogo by the Kintampo Health Research Centre and the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research.

Ghana was selected among six other African countries for the trial which was developed by the Glaxo-Smithkline Biologicals in Belgium.

The vaccine is being tried on 540 children in Ghana aged between five and 17 months.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Kweku Ananse Surfaces In Accra

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Saturday, 16 December 2006

When was the last time you sat by the fireside to be told stories about Kwaku Ananse?

Well, the mischievous Kwaku Ananse, as he is mostly portrayed in the country’s folklore is wanted and as such he must die!

However, Ananse the trickster, is no more in the village stealing from farms as he used to. He is now in a city called Akwaaba — "A land rich with stories" — and making headlines in the dailies for his mischievous acts.

This is the storyline of "Ananse Must Die!"a new, animated cartoon which seeks to address pertinent socio-cultural issues in an exciting new way.

The one hour movie, which will be released next March, was written by Cecil Jones Abban, a graduate of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and produced by Parables Productions,a Christian broadcasting organisation.

The movie was unveiled by the Director of the Geothe-Institut, Ms Ellenure Sylla, in Accra on Thursday.

It is aimed at producing an animated story in a modern way as a means of reviving the age-old folktale hero, Kwaku Ananse, who is conspicuously missing in present times.

It opens with a unique African tune which is the theme song.Ananse is brought into the modern world in the movie, accessing the Internet, driving and doing a host of other things.

Living in a land full of stories, the almighty tasks a group headed by Ananse to weave stories in the House of Tales for the people.

Being selfish as usual, Ananse leaves the house to pursue his mischievous acts and is given an ultimatum to find his way back to the house. The heat then starts when ‘Sasa-bronsam’ (the evil one) tries to prevent Ananse from meeting the deadline given him to find his way back to the House of Tales.

But Ananse’s mentor, Suhuroo, tries to help Ananse find his way to the house. But will he be able to assist him. And will Ananse die or not?

Speaking at the unveiling ceremony, Jones Abban noted that animation in Ghana has become more of commercial work than movie, saying "comparing what is happening in the outside world, there is much more to do in animation in the country."

He said that animation can be used in so many ways, especially in addressing the moral decadence which has plagued the country.

The movie will be produced on DVD, VCD and VHF cassettes. There will also be a series for television stations.