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Monday, December 8, 2014

Electoral Commission (EC) to consider a structured training system for all polling station agents

In order to avoid mistrust and controversies that characterized previous elections in Ghana, the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) has advised the Electoral Commission (EC) to consider a structured training system for all polling station agents assigned by political parties during elections, before the 2016 election is held.

The Executive Director of IDEG, Dr. Emmanuel Akwetey, who gave the advice at a training programme for journalists in Accra a fortnight ago, further stressed that Civil Society groups, journalists and election volunteers should also be trained to help avoid a system where untrained or unqualified people were involved in the organization of elections.

While asking political parties to build consensus among themselves with some guidelines on the mandate of their polling station agents to bring about harmony, Dr. Akwetey also wanted the EC to motivate and provide resources for volunteers it engaged to give up their best.

Referring to a comment made by Justice William Atugba during the 2012 Presidential election petition hearing at the Supreme Court that: “Elections are won at the polling stations”, Dr. Akwetey observed this is a wakeup call to all political parties to train their polling station agents on their mandate, their roles and boundaries in an election.

According to him, some polling station agents used by the political parties did not even know their roles and limits. As a result, actions and inactions of such agents had often brought about confusion at polling stations among electoral officers, political parties and security officers.

The Executive Director observed that Ghanaians were losing the needed trust for state institutions mandated to do their work and this level of mistrust had often been visited on the EC that, led to tension and violation of electoral processes in previous elections.

Dr. Akwetey said there is enough space for all electoral weaknesses and lapses to be identified and discussed now and the necessary reforms adopted before the next general elections were held so as to avoid things that threatened the country’s democratic credentials that had been recognized by international bodies.

He said most of the electoral reforms made by the EC were purely administrative and called for an integrated electoral reform system that would involve all political actors.

This, he believed, could bring about a more improved and efficient system the Ghanaian people would trust.

Other critical issues IDEG’s boss raised included strengthening of state institutions like the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO) and the Police Service and making them impartial and professional to perform their duty, such as protecting the national interest of Ghanaians.

He also said apart from the EC, Parliament, Judiciary, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), National Council for Civic Education (NCCE), National Media Commission (NMC) constituted core democratic institutions that should function as pillars on which the success of Ghana’s democracy rested.

However, Dr. Akwetey regretted that these institutions suffered from a serious deficit of trust as the political elite did not trust that these institutions would act impartially by serving all the people, regardless of the individual or group, or political affiliation.

IDEG was making a strong case for its critical proposals for electoral reforms to be considered for inclusion in the constitutional review process before the 2016 general elections.

According to the Executive Director, if these proposals were not adopted in the yet-to-be amended constitution, issues that characterized previous elections would show up in 2016.

But if adopted, there would be a lot of transparency, enhanced democracy and reduced voter apathy.

To this end, he advised Ghanaians to prepare their minds for potential violence in 2016 elections as his institute viewed the electoral process as “not democratic” stressing that the time to act in reviewing the electoral, governance and democratic issues was now since this could only be done throw constitutional review.

He called for the creation of more polling stations to decongest the about 46,002 existing polling stations across the country, a stop to delay in delivering voting materials mainly due to inadequate transportation, creation of multiparty fund, and the need to open up the Executive governance space to allow opposition/minority parties to also be included in the executive.

The programme was the second to have been held in Accra this year by IDEG to build the capacity of selected journalists on Institute’s proposals for electoral reforms and was on the theme; “Towards electoral reforms and the integrity of the 2016 elections”.

Dr. Akwetey believed it was not too late to still make inputs to the review process because if it was not done now, it would jeopardize the transparency and credibility of the 2016 elections and possibly lead to violence.

A Senior Research Advisor at IDEG, Mr. Kwesi Jonah, recalled that in the 1960s, Ghana’s Civil Service was the best in the whole of Africa but today, same could not be said of it, because at that time, there wasn’t much political interference, as is the case today.
He prescribed that for this to be addressed the public sector must be depoliticised, Civil Servants must be impartial, avoid all forms of narrow inward ideologies, restore professional values, restore efficiency and take advantage of technological advancement to be result oriented.

Maj. General Nii Carl Coleman, Chairman of Civil Forum Initiative was also a resource person, with Prof. S.N Woode, Senior Research Advisor and Prof. Kwame Ninsin, Scholar in Science at IDEG, as moderators.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

school children in the Ashanti Region have boycotted the meals served by Feeding Programme.

Some school children in the Ashanti Region have refused to eat food served by caterers of the School Feeding Programme.
The pupils, who have been sharing their experiences with Nhyira News, claim they have endured persistent stomach upsets caused by poor quality of food served in the school.
The School Feeding Programme is in its eighth year of implementation, but it has in recent times been grappling with funding.
About 50 caterers are owed over 100 million Ghana cedis nationwide.
Deputy Local Government Minister, Nii Lantey Vanderpuye, recently told Parliament a monitoring and evaluation team has been set up to ensure children eat high-quality food.
But less than two weeks after the minister's disclosure, pupils of Danyame Metropolitan Authority Basic School in Kumasi say meals served under the programme are bad.
An angry pupil in her response on what she made of the food served them by the Ghana School Feeding Programme said “sometimes they cook food as if we are animals”.
She continued; “the food that they cook is not sweet at all. Sometimes the salt is not in. Sometimes they cook gari with stew," she said.
A class six pupil said her parents have forced her to stop eating food served by the feeding programme.
Her harrowing account of how she develops stomach upset anytime she eats from the School Feeding Programme kitchen is a worrying one.
“My mother told me not to eat it again. I know it is not nice but some of my friends ate the food and they became sick”. She said.
School authorities say although service has been regular; the same cannot be said about quality.
Teachers who used to enjoy meals under the project have stopped eating in the school.
Children were being served jollof rice at the time Nhyira News visited the school. The pupils are forced to eat the light-yellowish grain without meat or egg.
That is the best the caterer could manage for the 256 pupils who are on a daily feeding fee of 50 pesewas.
Like several of her colleagues, the caterer has not been paid for her services for weeks.
A caterer in another school complained bitterly about soaring food prices and meager feeding fees.
She queried officials on their decision to peg feeding fee at 50 pesewas for each child while still expecting quality food.  
Headmaster of Danyame M/A Basic School, Eugene Asante Bekoe, said he understood his pupils who have boycotted the meals

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Dr. Anthony Akoto Osei, Is Championing To GetTthe 2015 Budget Rejected

Minority spokesperson on finance, Dr. Anthony Akoto Osei, is championing a crusade in Parliament to get the 2015 budget rejected by the House.

The Member of Parliament for Old Tafo, for instance cited the failure of government to remit workers contributions to the pensions fund as stipulated under the Pensions Act as one of the reasons why the budget should not be approved.

According to him, information available to him suggests that the government has not transferred the deducted amount into the appropriate kitty since the beginning of 2014. This, he said, is a violation of the Pensions Act.

The Pensions Act stipulates that if an employer fails to transfer workers’ contributions within 14 days from the end of each month it would be liable to a 3% penalty.

Early this month, Joy News intercepted a report by the National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA) to Parliament revealing that government through the Controller and Accountant General has failed to transfer more than 200 million cedis of workers’ pension contributions to the designated Bank of Ghana account.

Dr. Akoto Osei also argued that the budget should not be approved because the government failed to achieve all the targets it set for itself in 2014.

The MP decried the rising inflation and the increasing public debt and appealed to his colleagues to reject the budget many have described as an austere budget. For 2014, the government predicted an inflation target of 9.5 percent, plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Government also targeted economic growth of 8 percent in 2014 as well as to trim its budget deficit to 8.5 percent of gross domestic product.

But the Ghana Statistical Service announced that inflation for October 2014 has hit 16.9
The development, according to them, has shot up the country’s current public debt stock from GH¢51.6 billion in December 2013 to GH¢58 billion.
The Minority Spokesperson on Finance, Dr. Anthony Akoto Osei, told journalists at a news conference in Parliament House yesterday, that the huge debt “does not include the entire $3 billion China Development Bank (CDB) facility, and even the $1 billion Euro bond the country recently borrowed from the capital market.
“This means that today, every Ghanaian owes GH¢2,150. We are borrowing at a rate of GH¢2 billion every month,” he reiterated. He lamented that the public debt had progressively risen from GH¢9.56 billion in 2008 to the current GH¢58 billion, which is an increase of over 510% in 5½ years, emphasising that “the debt to Gross Domestic Products (GDP) ratio is about 58% today.”
The Mills–Mahama administration inherited a total public debt of $8billion, the equivalent then of GH¢9.5billion, at the beginning of 2009″. The figure, he continued, represented 33% of GDP. “Within 5½ years, this debt has escalated to GH¢58 billion, which is more than 4½ times, or, indeed, [a] 510% increase in debt stock over 5½ years.
“Inflation for August, meanwhile, was 15.9%. It has been on the upward swing since January. Inflation is no longer in single digit, and the nation has been spared the cacophony associated with it, instead of concentrating on relevant matters,” Dr. Osei noted.
Growth And Cedi Woes
He noted: “The GDP growth rate, which was inherited by Kufuor, was 3.7%. In 2001, the GDP grew at 4.2%. In 2002, it grew at 4.5%, rising to 5.2% in 2003, and to 5.6% in 2004. It rose to 5.9% in 2005; 6.4% in 2006; 6.3% in 2007 and to 7.3% in 2008, which later became 8.4% after the rebasing of the economy.
“This steady growth happened without the benefit of crude oil exports. This is how a really sound economic growth aggregate looks like.” However, Dr. Osei said if one was to consider the full set of economic aggregates that constitute what was properly called economic fundamentals, then the facts cannot be distorted.
He further told the journalists that the cedi depreciated by 17.6% in the first quarter alone this year, compared with a depreciation of 1.1% in the first quarter last year. “As at the end of August 2014, the cedi had depreciated by some 40% since December 31, 2013. The second worst performing currency in the world this year!!
“In the eight-year administration under President Kufuor the cedi, from GH¢0.72 – GH¢1.1 to $1, depreciated by 53%. Less than 6 years into the NDC administration, the cedi has depreciated by 245.5%, and still counting,” he stressed.
On interest rates, which now hover around 30%, Dr. Akoto Osei stressed the country’s gross international reserves in months of imports had dwindled to 2.2 months of imports, and the net reserve was for just seven days; its trade deficit was now well over $4 billionthe fiscal deficit was 10.8% in 2013 or about GH¢12 billion.
This was against the target of 9.0%. The fiscal deficit was 11.8% of GDP in 2012, against the target of 6.7%; our current account deficit in 2013 was 12.8% of GDP, or $5.7 billion (i.e. GH¢17 billion); it was $4.9 billion in 2012.
In 2011, the nation’s trade deficit was $3.1 billion; it escalated to $4.2 billion in 2012, and in 2013 it hit $4.1 billion. The worsening balance of trade position contributed to the massive current account deficit of $5.8 billion in 2013, the Minority MPs stated.