Wednesday, 26 October 2016

EOCO Directive Over Campaign Funds Investigation

The Economic and Organised Crime Office, otherwise known as EOCO has received mixed reactions from a section of the public following its invitation to some political party leaders to disclose their sources of funds for their political activities. According to a Daily Graphic publication, EOCO wants Hassan Ayariga of the All People`s Congress [APC] to explain where he got the $6 million he claimed to have expended on his campaign. Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom of the Progressive People’s Party [PPP], on the other hand, is being asked to explain the source of the GH¢1,000,750 that he paid for himself and the parliamentary candidates of the PPP as filing fees. This is no doubt a move in the right direction. It is important that relevant state agencies are allowed to investigate the sources of funds of everybody who flaunts wealth especially if they are not known to be engaged in any serious business that can give them that kind of wealth. We are in a country where we worship the wealthy without questioning their sources of wealth. Politics is not a business neither is it supposed to be a money making enterprise yet people are so eager and willing to expend so much money on it. The troubling reality is that some of the candidates are well known and their income levels are also known, yet they spend so much on election activities. It is true that candidates and political parties are at liberty to raise funds to finance their activities, except to say that foreigners are precluded from financing political parties in Ghana.

The political parties law require parties to furnish the EC with their audited accounts, proceeds from party dues and other incomes as well as their expenditure regularly but the parties hardly comply with it. Unfortunately, the EC has over the years failed to crack the whip on defaulting parties. The declaration of assets is another law which is flouted by candidates and public officers with pompous impunity. The decision by EOCO to intervene in ascertaining the sources of funds for some of these political parties and their leaders is therefore welcoming. Under the EOCO Act, Act 804 of 2010, it is authorised to monitor and investigate economic and organised crime and on the authority of the Attorney - General prosecute these offences to recover the proceeds of crime and provide for related matters. Some of the offences to be investigated by EOCO are money laundering, tax fraud, and other serious offences. The office is also mandated to recover the proceeds of crime and take reasonable measures necessary to prevent the commission of such crimes and their correlative offences.

The current EOCO investigation will therefore not only unravel the sources of funds for the two candidates but also determine whether they have discharged their tax obligations to the state. Many people, especially politicians in opposition are quick to accuse government of corruption, financial malfeasance and wanton dissipation of tax payers’ money, yet they do not pay tax. The good saying has it that, he who calls for equity must come with clean hands. It is sad that some people are accusing the government of the day of using EOCO and other state agencies to harass its opponents. The situation where every state institution is politicised is not the best. It is retarding and must not be encouraged. We must allow state institutions to work and work effectively.

A case can however be made that, the EOCO should not and ought not limit its investigations to only the PPP and APC. The office must do well to invite all the other political parties and their leaders, especially the two leading ones. These are parties that suffocate for cash in opposition but become opulent and flamboyant overnight when they win power. The question is how do they make their money when they are in government and are not able to do so in opposition? Let this move by EOCO be the beginning of a new dawn of unravelling the mystery surrounding the wealth of the rich in our society.


Tuesday, 25 October 2016

History Of Teacher Trainee Allowances

It is necessary to know and understand how the Teacher Trainee Allowance came about. Originally, the Training colleges were attached to some secondary schools, for example Achimota School in Accra and St. Augustines College in Cape Coast. There were other similar Institutions in Ashanti and elsewhere. The two types of Education were on the same compound. The fees paid by the secondary school students were higher than those of the Teacher Training Department. For example, in Achimota while the secondary students paid seven pounds, their counterparts in the Training College Department paid five pounds as fees. The motive behind the disparity was to encourage more students to offer Teacher Training. The expansion of educational programmes necessitated the training of more teachers for the first cycle schools. For this reason, six week Emergency Training Centres were established in all the regions to train pupil teachers already teaching in schools.

In addition to this, some of the four year Teacher Training Colleges were split into two, and they became certificate 'B' Training colleges and certificate 'A' ( otherwise known as Post B) Teacher Training Colleges. It is interesting to note that those who entered 'A' (that is post B) Teacher Training Colleges were to use the salaries they received on the field to pay for their fees, boarding, books and other expenses. Whatever was left was paid to them as allowance. It should be noted that not all the teacher trainees received the same amount of allowance. This was so because some had taught longer than others. If you were not a pupil teacher you could not enter (Cert B Training College) and if you entered Training College as a pupil teacher you were given pupils Teachers' pay.

It should be noted again that if you were not teaching in the classroom you could never attend a Training College aside this arrangement. If you taught for five years without going to Training College you were sacked to give way to others who were serious enough to enter Teacher Training Colleges. The Teacher Trainee allowance was to motivate people to offer teacher training. More teachers were trained within a short period as a result of this arrangement. For this reason, the Cert 'B' teacher training was stopped and the Four Year Training Colleges re-introduced as well as Cert 'A' (2 year) Post-Secondary Colleges. As part of training college expansion, a special dispensation was given to girls who finished middle school to enter straight away into Teacher Training Colleges after passing their exams successfully. These categories of teacher trainees were paid as pupil teachers and had to pay for their boarding, books, tuition and others from their pay and the balance given to them as allowance. Incidentally this type of arrangement came to an end in the Second Republic but was restored later on during the military regime. The trainee allowances were not purposely instituted by any government as allowance. It was a long term plan that when Ghana attained sufficiency in Teacher Training, teachers would have to apply for postings after successfully passing an interview by the G.E.S.

The question is, at this stage, should a new allowance be instituted for Teacher Trainees/or we should continue to pay them the allowance. Even if the allowance should ever be paid, it should rather be paid to newly trained teachers to buy teaching and learning materials to equip them in their profession and not for goodies and enjoyment.


Friday, 21 October 2016

Libya, After Death Of Col Muammar Gaddaf

October 20, 2016 is exactly five years since former Libyan Leader Col. Muammar Gaddaffi was killed by NATO backed forces. Col. Gaddaffi was no doubt a controversial figure. To some, he was a terror but to others he was a hero. His death still arouses mixed feelings among many Libyans and Africans in general. The point can be made that the decision by the western forces spearheaded by the US and France to intervene in the Arab spring, was not a genuine desire to liberate the people of Libya, but a desperate effort to get rid of a man who dared challenge their supremacy. Gaddaffi, was in no way a push over in world politics, he stood his ground and spoke his mind fearlessly. The western forces were just opportunistic, taking advantage of the wave of the Arab spring. That decision is currently haunting US Democratic Presidential Candidate, Hillary Clinton, who was the then Secretary of State.

The death of Gaddaffi hardly represents any of the ideals aspired to by a nation that had just emerged from violence and war on the heels of the Libyan revolution, which was supposed to bring back justice and the rule of law. Without a doubt, Libya today is a fractured country without any central government. At the same time, different terror groups are making gains in Libya. The most dangerous of them is the Islamic State. At the same time, various militias still operate outside any government control with the judiciary hardly functioning. Benghazi, the second major city in Libya where the revolution started in February 2011, in the wake of the Arab spring has been almost completely destroyed. Compared to a year or two ago, life for ordinary Libyans in the capital might have improved a little, but it is still far from what it used to be under Gadhafi. Many Libyans feel insecurity, struggle to make ends meet, with skyrocketing prices and little subsidized basic food available. Basic medical services are almost nonexistent, forcing people to seek treatment in neighboring Tunisia. Those with financial means seeking to go to Europe for whatever reason find it even harder, since all Western embassies have long closed. Oil production, the main source of government revenue, is down denying the treasury much-needed funds. All major infrastructure projects that were in progress when the unrest started five years ago have been on hold since all major foreign companies left. Thousands of Libyans are still displaced inside their country. In the absence of an organized military, armed militias continue to assert their role as guardians of the revolution.

Looking back, Libya under Muammar Gaddafi had the highest Human Development Index, the lowest infant mortality and the highest life expectancy in all of Africa. Arguably, one could say that Libya today is a failed state. The south of the country has fallen into the hands of ISIS terrorists, and the Northern coast a center of migrant trafficking. There are widespread cases of rape, assassinations and torture . The democracy which Libyans were promised by Western governments after the fall of Colonel Gaddafi has all but vanished. Under Gaddafi’s unique system of direct democracy, traditional institutions of government were disbanded and abolished, putting power directly in the hands of the people through various committees and congresses. Libya was highly decentralised and divided into several small communities that were essentially “mini-autonomous States” within a State. These autonomous States had control over their districts and could make a range of decisions including how to allocate oil revenue and budgetary funds. International relations experts have argued that America’s bombing campaign of 2011 has not only destroyed the infrastructure of Libya’s democracy but also actively promoted ISIS . US president Barak Obama's has admitted that the US failed to plan the aftermath of Libya and the subsequent killing of Gaddafi. Former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the House of Commons that Al Qaeda was unquestionably a product of western intelligence agencies.

Today, Libya is home to the world’s largest loose arms cache, and its porous borders are routinely transited by a host of heavily armed non-state actors including Tuareg separatists and jihadists. NATO’s bombardment of Libya may indeed go down in history as one of the greatest military failures of the 21st century. General George Patton once said and i quote insecurity kills all that is beautiful, unquote. The once beautiful Gaddafi's Libya has been killed by insecurities and interference by western powers. Those who had a hand in the current state of Libya must bow their heads in shame. On the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the cruel killing of Col. Gaddaffi, let Libyans take solace in the hope that their country can be great once again. Let them not despair, let them work towards realising the dreams of their founding fathers. Let the fighters drop their weapons and turn their guns towards their common enemy of poverty, hunger, underdevelopment and most importantly neocolonial and imperial forces.


Thursday, 20 October 2016

Legal Battle Between Disqualified Presidential Aspirants, EC

There is a growing concern and fears that the December 7, 2016 electoral calendar could be negatively affected following the rising number of disputes between some disqualified presidential aspirants and the Electoral Commission [EC]. The EC on October 10, 2016 declined to accept the nominations of 12 aspirants after it detected errors on their forms. While majority of the disqualified aspirants claimed the errors were clerical and administrative, the EC insisted that some were criminal and bother on perjury and forgery which cannot be allowed to go unpunished. So far, the National Democratic Party, the Progressive People's Party and the Independent People's Party have sued the Commission over the matter. The People's National Convention and the All People's Convention have also given the EC up to October 20 to reinstate their candidates or face them in court. From the look of things, none of the parties to the dispute is willing to compromise and they are prepared to fight to the end. It is said that when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. In this situation, if this litigation lingers, the whole nation stands to suffer. We must not lose sight of the fact that, we just about 48 days to the election.

The point is that, before the election, there ought to be a number of things done first. One can talk of balloting for placement on the ballot paper, printing and posting of notices of polls, printing of ballot papers and many more which cannot be done in a day or a week. That is why the fears of a possible delay in the holding of the elections are real. The Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) has also raised doubts over the ability of the Electoral Commission to successfully conduct Election 2016. According to CODEO, “The EC is working with a timetable, and looking at the legal suits filed against the EC by the presidential aspirants following their disqualification, the election process might delay. At this juncture, one can only appeal to the Electoral Commission, IPAC and other identifiable bodies to intervene in the disputes. It is in this light that the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood must be commended for designating seventeen specialized courts to deal with electoral disputes that may arise before the December 7, presidential and parliamentary elections.

Again, it is noteworthy that the Chief Justice has also directed that the hearing of all electoral cases should take precedence over all other cases pending before the courts. A statement issued and signed by the Judicial Secretary, Justice Alex B. Poku Acheampong said the designated Judges have also been directed to hear the election related cases on a day-to-day basis including weekends but excluding Public Holidays from 9am to 6pm. This is a laudable move which will go a long way to ensure that the national electoral calendar is not unduly delayed. It will be important that the assigned judges strictly adhere to these directives and ensure that they hear electoral dispute cases expeditiously. Even though it is said that the wheels of justice grind slowly, this must not be tolerated in this instance. We should not allow what happened at the Supreme Court, where the dispute over the 2012 presidential election lasted for eight months to repeat itself. It is imperative for all the relevant stakeholders in the election to work with the judiciary for a speedy adjudication of cases to ensure a smooth and violent free election. Time is ticking fast and there is therefore the need for players in the election to expeditiously deal with all issues likely to mare the electoral process. Thankfully, the EC has given indications that it is willing to abide by any decision taken by court, even if it includes reinstating any or all of the disqualified aspirants.

Ghana has a worldwide reputation as a model of democracy and beacon of hope on a continent best known for wars emanating from electoral disputes. We have held six general elections which were largely free and fair and which saw the transfer of power from one political party to another. This year cannot and should not be an exception. If anything at all, it should be better, more transparent, more inclusive and more credible.


Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Fake Election Prophecies And Opinion Polls

It is interesting how religion is playing in Ghana's body politic. Apart from parties and candidates organising prayer and worship sessions to seek divine blessings, some so called prophets and prophetess are making declarations and pronouncements in respect of who shall emerge victorious in the elections. In other words, these men and women of God have become pollsters and seers and are able to predict the outcome of the election. The irony of the whole situation is that, they all claim they have revelation from God yet their prophesies and predictions are different. The question is how can the same God tell different things to different prophets in respect of the same thing? What is clear is that these men and women think they are wiser or smarter than the rest of the population. They are aware just like everyone else is that in this year's election, one of the two main parties will win, so they go about stating the obvious, pretending to be prophesying. At the end, when one party wins, they can claim, they told us so. What is worrying is that, in the same vein, those who prophesised in favour of the losing candidate would have succeeded in making God, a liar. Those involved in this enterprise have the Biblical injunction that Believers should "not make God a liar" as contained in first John chapter one verse 10. They could not discern between the wishful figment of their imaginations and Divine manifestations.
At the same time when the prophetic claims are being propagated, all manner of groups are also releasing supposed opinion polls purporting to give indication as to the outcome of the elections. Opinion polls can be scientific and close to accurate nut some can be engineered and manipulated to achieve a certain outcome. Periodically, Research Institutions, Media houses and individuals conduct interviews by sampling or selecting a representative number of people to answer relevant questions on issues under discussion or enquiry. The responses are documented, collated, analyzed and interpreted for public information and/or decision-making. For Election purposes, documents and records obtained from Government offices, essentially the Electoral Commission, are the critical first point of contact, but the National Archives, Parliament and such-like institutions can be appropriate. Data about previous elections are matched against prevailing exigencies and occurrences, in order to arrive at future prognostics. Objectivity is always essential in assembling and interpreting such statistical information.

Just like fake prophets, fake opinion polls just give fake hopes to those who swallow them hook, line and sinker. We cannot run away from the fact that, in Ghana, many factors come to play in an election. It is an accepted fact some people vote along tribal, religious, and party lines. These people cannot be swayed by prophecies and outcome of opinion polls. These are people who are not moved by manifesto promises of opposing parties and candidates. In this year's election, it does not matter how many prophecies, predictions and opinion polls are conducted. What is key is for everyone to play his or her role diligently and objectively in order to ensure an incident free election come Decenber 7. May the most convincing team win and losers honourably accept defeat, in the true spirit of dignified sportsmanship.



Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Restoration Of Fertilizer Subsidies In Ghana

Opinions about the role of fertilizer subsidies in spurring agricultural development in Ghana have fluctuated significantly over the years. Many experts believe that fertilizer subsidies represents an essential method for achieving long term food security in the country while providing social support to the poorest small holder farmer. There is widespread agreement that increased use of fertilizer and other productivity-enhancing inputs is a precondition for rural productivity, growth and poverty reduction. While the benefits of using fertilizer are widely known, fertilizer use in sub-Saharan Africa stood at just 8 kilogramme per hector compared to 78 kilogramme per hector in Latin America and 101 kilogramme per hector in South Asia. One of the reasons for these low rates is affordability.

Generally, in less developed countries like Ghana, the demand for fertilizer is thought to be more elastic under the assumption of readily available substitutes such as manure and other organic materials which is however not so. In an attempt to boost yields and food supplies, several African countries have re-introduced fertilizer subsidies after phasing them out in the 1990’s.

Even though there is still a deficit in production and supply in Ghana, the past six years saw an increase in maize production due to the affordability and accessibility of fertilizer to small and medium scale farmers who cultivate about 75 per cent of Ghana’s maize. The production of maize and rice especially suffered significant decrease in 2014 due to the withdrawal of subsidy by the Government the effect of which is the high price of maize we are experiencing now and the closure of companies who use the product as raw materials. Like any other Government policy or intervention, there are challenges in implementation of fertilizer subsidy policy leading to the right people not benefiting from it. For example, there is widespread evidence that subsidized fertilizer was typically captured by wealthy local elites and business men and women at the expense of the poor small holder farmer. What we need to do now is to tighten the loop-holes where people take advantage of. There are alternatives to increasing fertilizer use in the country other than direct price subsidies.

Significant reductions in farm gate fertilizer prices can result from investments in infrastructure at the port and in-land transportation and telecommunications networks. Policy changes that improve the functioning of financial markets and the broader macro economy are also expected to reduce farm gate prices. An appeal goes to policy makers to consider the potentials of the small and medium holder farmer who with the needed support can help the government realize its ‘use of made in Ghana products’ agenda. Importation of maize and rice to the country is needless considering the resources at hand. The re-introduction of subsidized fertilizer is welcome news to the farming community, what is important now is for government to ensure that the fertilizer gets to the farmers at the right time.

BY Seidu Nanundow, (Agriculture Policy Analyst) 
Telephone Number: 0242888701/0204850750


Friday, 14 October 2016

Need For Issues Based Voting

The season has begun and the atmosphere is filled with cacophony of promises. There is no doubt that Ghana is confronted with a lot of developmental challenges. There is growing unemployment, declining agricultural productivity, deteriorating infrastructure and many more. Recent surveys conducted by various institutions such as the National Commission for Civic Education [NCCE] revealed that Education, Health, Employment and infrastructure are key issues at the heart of many Ghanaians. With less than two months to the general election, it is imperative that those who seek political power subject themselves to probing questions from the masses to show that they understand their concerns and have what it takes to solve them. In times past, elections were driven by mundane factors such as tribe, religion, height, and skin complexion. Campaigns were also characterised by abuses, insults, mudslinging, fabrications, unsubstantiated allegations, accusations and counter accusations. Little attention was paid to the main issues, call it, the bread and butter matters.

It is significant however that there is a gradual shift from that attitude. The last election was largely driven by issues of education and the fight against corruption. This is a tradition we must continue. This year's election must be issues driven. The youth of this nation will no longer tolerate living in circumstances that give them no hope for the future. Whoever is elected must take concrete steps to assuage the plight of the youth or be prepared to face their wrath. There is rage in the eyes of teenagers in the three regions of the north who wallow in abject deprivation of basic essential needs of life. There is rage in the heart of children dwelling in communities like, Sodom and Gomorrah, Nima, Nungua, Ashaiman, Tsorkor, and many others. The feeling is not different with head porters popularly referred to as ‘Kayaye’ all over the big markets in this country. That same rage is sensed in the minds of Ghanaian workers whose salaries take them only to the next Bus Stop. As for their condition of work, the least said about it the better.

It is refreshing that after the long delay, the main opposition party, the NPP has launched its manifesto. Needless to add that, the ruling party, the NDC had also launched it’s about a month earlier. The aim of a manifesto is give indication that they understand the concerns of the citizens and have the solutions to them. True to that, the two main parties have attempted to proffer some solutions to the key issues they think many Ghanaians are concerned about. The NPP made a number of grandiose promises including reduction of corporate taxes, VAT, and import duties and at the same time embarking on a massive industrialisation drive, by building at least one factory in each district, one dam in each village and allocation one million dollars to each constituency. The NDC also promised to revamp old industries, invest in the citizens, expand social and economic infrastructure and many more.

What is key is that the two main parties are pretty aware that one of the greatest challenges confronting the nation is unemployment. There is general despondency among many citizens as a result of current economic challenges. As Gen. Romeo D. put it, and I quote "Human beings who have no right, no security, no future, no hope and no means to survive are desperate group who will do desperate things to take what they believe they need and deserve" unquote. That is the more reason why people who are seeking political power at this crucial time must give hope to the citizens. For lack of hope is the root cause of rage. Those struggling for political leadership should tell the nation in the ordinary man's term, how prepared they are to eradicate poverty, deprivation and hopelessness. This is not a matter of making phantom promises which can never be realised. What is most insulting is for a political party to take the intelligence of voters for granted. Even in our desperation for political power, let us remember that the Ghanaian voter is discerning, he or she knows what is a vote catching promise and what is realistic.

God bless Ghana.