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Is anyone listening to the doctors?

Friday, 09 January 2015 12:29

IT is becoming obvious that issues concerning the migration of doctors onto the Single Spine Salary Structure are far from over and another strike involving members of Ghana Medical Association (GMA) seems imminent.

The GMA has, over the years, had disagreements with their employer over issues on their placement on the Single spine Salary Structure.

This has led doctors to stage numerous strike actions to draw attention to what they call as distortions in their migration onto the new pay structure.

 Doctors across the country boycotted hospitals last year after negotiations broke down at an emergency National Executive Council meeting between the GMA and government over what the association said were distortions created by the Fair Wages and Salary Commission (FWSC) in the process leading to the migration of its members onto the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS).

Each time they embarked on these strikes, the effect has, often, been disastrous - patients are left unattended and some die as a result; not forgetting the suffering many innocent Ghanaians go through, especially children and women. 

Often, it takes public appeals for the doctors to return to work while government promises to settle the issues with the doctors; but that never ever seems to happen and the issues linger on.

Just recently, the GMA has raised the red flags by warning that any further delays in bringing finality to their concerns will only result in further mistrust and suspicion, leading to the rocking of industrial peace and harmony.

They have warned of more strikes this year to protest unresolved pensions, market premium and salary adjustment grievances. Indeed, the GMA says these unmet demands were the cause of their strikes in 2014; hence its members will not hesitate to lay down their tools this year too.


 The doctors put the blame squarely on the door steps of the government for being unresponsive to their grievances since 2006. According to the GMA President, Kwabena Opoku-Adusei, it will be in government’s own interest to swiftly act to avert further strikes this year.


"If government wants to stop or minimise the strike, it can by committing itself to the right thing that should be done," said Dr. Opoku-Adusei.

Government, on the other hand, often finds reason to defend its actions and has been quick to point out why the doctors should accept the status quo.

It is instructive to note that lives lost are during these tussles are irreplaceable. The Weekend Finder, therefore, thinks that the earlier the issues of doctors’ salaries, etc are finalised, the better it will be for the entire nation.


Could Central Medical Stores fire be the work of arsonists?

Wednesday, 14 January 2015 11:26

Yesterday morning, the Central Medical Stores, located in the Tema Industrial Area, was gutted by fire.        

The fire, which started at about 09,45am, raged on as the area was filled with thick, dark smoke.        

The Central Medical Stores is a medical warehouse for the Ghana Health Service where all medicines and medical equipment are kept for distribution to health facilities in the country.         

The place also houses the Central Mechanic Workshop.        

 Information gathered from some workers at the scene indicated that the fire started as a result of some workers burning rubbish on the premises.

According to them, because they do not have fire extinguishers at the premises, they wanted to use the pipelines, but the taps were not flowing.

 As a result of the fire, millions of cedis have gone down the drain.

While not pointing accusing fingers at anybody, The Finder will like to remind investigative bodies to extend their tentacles to some disturbing happenings at the place.

It will be recalled that somewhere in August last year The Finder published a story that said various medicines valued at about GH₵3.2 million at the Central Medical Stores in Tema had expired and were earmarked for destruction. The medicines expired from 2012 to August 2014.

In addition, syringes worth GH₵2 million and purchased by the Central Medical Stores were also rejected by health facilities.

The situation alarmed the immediate past Health Minister, Ms Sherry Ayittey, who wrote to the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) to investigate the circumstances that led to the expiry of such large tonnes of drugs, thereby causing financial loss to the state.

The letter to EOCO was dated July 7, 2014.

In the letter, EOCO was to determine whether the medicines were supplied with the standard shelve life of 18 months as required by policy.

In addition, EOCO was to investigate whether quantities supplied at the time were based on any scientific quantification in consultation with CMS.

EOCO was also to investigate if there were operation lapses which prevented the staff of the CMS from identifying the locations of the expired medicines.

According to the letter, EOCO was also to determine if there were wilful acts of omission or commission by individual staff resulting in the expiry of the medicines.

Ms Ayittey also requested EOCO to investigate indebtedness of creditors to CMS of over GH₵18 million.

It will be recalled again that last year tonnes of drugs were exposed to heat and rainwater at the Central Medical Stores at Tema due to the deplorable nature of the place.

Apart from a leaking roof jeopardising the shelf life of goods there, some hazardous items had also been mixed with proper goods.

Even though the outcome of the EOCO investigations have not been made public, it will be important for investigators to also investigate arson, possibly to destroy evidence.


Mitigation levy, a wrong approach

Monday, 19 January 2015 10:29

Oil prices have dropped by nearly 60% since June as production around the world has soared, outstripping demand at a time of lacklustre global economic growth.

Despite this, Ghanaians have to brace up to pay more for petroleum products as government is set to review the pricing formula for petroleum products to include mitigation levy, which will increase the price of petroleum products.

Already, Special Petroleum Tax of 17.5% was imposed on selected petroleum products in November last year.

Currently, the cost of levies, VAT and distribution margins sum up to 42.10% and 39.87% on the prices of petrol and diesel respectively, according to industry watchers. 

Mitigation levy will only increase these percentages and further worsen the deteriorating living standards being experienced currently.

Ironically, Ghanaians have enjoyed only 12% reduction in the prices of petroleum products.

Some critics have been quick to rubbish the 12% reduction, considering the nearly 60% drop in the price of crude oil.

Government argues that it has to save to pay for under recoveries incurred through subsidies when prices were on the ascendancy.

The current pricing formula includes crude oil prices, exchange rate, taxes and margins. 

A change in any of the indices automatically affects the price of the product.

The severe impact of Special Petroleum Tax of 17.5% and the mitigation levy being proposed by government will be felt when prices of crude oil begin to rise.

Fuel price adjustment, which is upward, has many ramifications on the micro and macro economy of Ghana. 

While commercial drivers are refusing to reduce fares to commensurate the reduction in petroleum prices, they will be quick to increase fares should the mitigation levy be significant.

It is common sense that the introduction of a new tariff on fuel products will only worsen the plight of the Ghanaian.

Critics say one cannot manipulate oil prices from Ghana and in addition cannot save so much to be able to mitigate future price rise, so the wisest thing to do is to allow the market to dictate the prices.

In other jurisdictions, what is done when world prices rise so much above what people can bear is for the government to cushion people by reducing taxes, which currently constitute 40% of ex-pump price of the product.

For businesses, especially Small and Medium Enterprises, increases in fuel prices lead to increase in cost of production.

It affects the transport sector as prices will go up. It also pushes production costs and increases in general cost of living as unemployment will go up.

Fuel price adjustments affect turnover, output and employment levels of the SMEs. This showed that turnover of SMEs does fall whenever there is fuel price adjustment.

 This fall occurs due to increases in transportation cost and production cost incurred by SMEs.

We have all agreed as a country to allow the market to determine the price of petroleum products through automatic tariff adjustment formula, and so government should keep faith with the policy.


Fire safety in state firms must be priority

Tuesday, 20 January 2015 08:29

The revelation that the Central Medical Stores in Tema was a disaster in waiting is disturbing.

However, it not surprising because Ghanaians are yet to know the findings of the report of the US experts contracted by the government to investigate rampant fire outbreaks in the country, because, according to a deputy Minister of State, it is state secret.

Eight clear months before the Medical Stores was ravaged by fire, Pyrotechnics Limited, a fire protection company, in a comprehensive report had identified several fire protection lapses and made cogent recommendations to avert any disaster.  

Pyrotechnics identified that the Fire Detection and Alarm System installed at the Central Medical Stores some time ago had broken down entirely. 

In addition, inspection of the Alarm Circuit revealed that all the 74 Smoke Detectors wired onto the main Control Panel at the security gate had become obsolete and, therefore, could not be reactivated.

The report noted that the frontline fire-fighting extinguishers installed on the various buildings and warehouses within the Central Medical Stores had been neglected for some time and will not operate effectively when there is fire outbreak.

The location of these units does not conform to the standard required. 

The report said Fire-Fighting Hose Reels installed for the pre-emptive attack on any fire that may break out on the warehouses are located behind heavy doors under locks and this will, in a practical situation, not permit the use of the equipment until the doors are forced opened or unlocked by the Key Holder.

The report by Pyrotechnics Limited said fire hydrants installed on the building could not produce enough water which will be required by the Fire Service to extinguish an outbreak.

Also, the electric fire-fighting booster pump installed had broken down.

In view of the high-value stock of medical and relief equipment/products, Pyrotechnics advised that a fire strategy be formulated and implemented so that any fire outbreak within the premises could be detected at the incipient stages and suppressed before it could develop into a major outbreak.

Consequently, Pyrotechnics asked management to install an Addressable Fire Detection and Alarm System with remote autodialing facility to the Fire Service as well at the security organisation responsible for the warehouse.

The system envisaged should be programmed to alert the officials responsible for the Medical Stores of any development regarding fire outbreak.

Additionally, the existing fire-fighting extinguishers have to be updated to enable frontline staff and security personnel attack and hold any fire outbreak in check until the arrival of the Fire Service, the report said. 

According to the report, the installation of a Close Circuit Television (CCTV) Monitoring System would upgrade the fire, safety and security for the warehouses and storage facilities.

What is strange is that even though the Central Medical Stores requested for the fire protection assessment, recommendations were never implemented.

It would have cost far less to implement the recommendations compared to the GH¢237 million lost.

It is about time government took serious look at fire safety in state institutions.


Ambassador Cretz addresses ECOWAS Ebola meeting

Tuesday, 20 January 2015 08:53

I would be remiss if I didn’t begin by commending the West African Health Organisation and its Director General, Dr Xavier Crespin, ECOWAS, and the other organisers for their leadership in convening us here today to address this issue of supreme urgency and importance.   

In particular, I want to express the U.S. Government’s gratitude to His Excellency President John Dramani Mahama for his continued regional leadership as Chair of ECOWAS.  

I would also like to extend the U.S. Government’s profound appreciation to His Excellency President Faure Gnassingbe for taking on the challenging task of managing and co-ordinating ECOWAS’ response to the Ebola crisis. 

Finally, I extend a welcome to the new Special Representative of the Secretary General for UNMEER, Ismail Ould Cheick Ahmed, and his team.  


As you join the battle, the task ahead is still monumental but headed in the right direction.  We stand ready to assist as you take over the strong foundation left by your predecessor Anthony Banbury.

To paraphrase/mangle a quote from Assistant Secretary General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Bruce Aylward, “West Africa was attacked by a savage virus. West Africa reacted courageously. The region is at war and needs collective action to win.” 

In line with this, I want to reiterate the continued commitment of the United States to stand hand-in-hand and work collectively with our West African friends and global allies to fight the scourge of Ebola. 

To date, the American government and people have contributed close to $900 million in funds, resources and personnel in support of anti-Ebola efforts.  

While this assistance has been most visible in Liberia, we have provided substantial funding and resources across the other affected countries, as well as throughout West Africa to prevent the possible spread of Ebola.  


From the 17 Ebola Treatment Units that our military has constructed in the three affected countries, to the 50 USAID-funded safe burial teams operating across Sierra Leone, to 100 ambulances the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention provided the Government of Guinea, America’s Ebola response efforts have been rapid, extensive and effective.


Perhaps, most importantly, our commitment is ongoing.  The United States Congress recently approved President Obama’s request for significant additional funding for the Ebola crisis.  


As I speak, the White House is working on a plan for the utilisation of these funds.  


Moving forward, we expect these additional resources to be a key contribution to the collaborative efforts with regional and global partners to complete the dual tasks of ridding West Africa of Ebola and assisting its citizens and governments in recovering from this disaster.


The Obama administration recognised early on that an international coalition was needed.  


Efforts were made not just with government representatives, but also in recognising the important role that the private and non-profit sectors play.  


We called upon the American private sector to step up and answer the call, and they have done so admirably.  


Here in Accra, I was proud of the swift action of the American Chamber of Commerce Ghana to gather its members at my home to encourage corporate social responsibility. 


President Mahama recently noted that “if your neighbour’s house is on fire you have to help him to quench it.  Otherwise…, after it finishes consuming his house, the fire will spread to your house.”  In other words, collaboration produces wins for everybody.


I specifically emphasise collaborating because this is the only way that West Africa and the world can succeed against this dangerous disease, devastating not only to human life, but also to development.  


This task cannot be undertaken or achieved by a single country, the Mano River Union or ECOWAS alone; the Ebola epidemic is a global crisis that will take global solidarity to resolve. 


President Obama demands integration of the United States’ response, and all parts of the American government - USAID, the Department of Defence, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of State and others - have laid aside individual interests to form a cohesive team.  


We work collectively under the capable leadership and co-ordination of USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, and together we have responded as two hands rather than 10 fingers. 


I cannot strongly enough counsel our partners here today – individual countries, UN agencies, regional and global organisations, NGOs and others – to do the same.  Consult, co-operate, co-ordinate.  


Put aside individual and organisational concerns and agendas.  Remember our common goal.  


Take collaborative actions and create lasting relationships and organisations that will not only support the current struggle but prepare us for the next battle and remain as a testament to the successful fight we have waged against this vicious foe.


And this brings me to the second important message I want to deliver today – the need for a long-term outlook as we focus resources and interventions moving forward.  


Much of the money and most efforts expended thus far to combat Ebola have been – by necessity – reactive with the intent of responding to the emergency and stopping the spread of Ebola.  


And while we still have a long battle ahead, successes are happening.  Up until now, however, we have given limited thought to the sustainability, long-term outcomes, or linkages inherent in our response. 


As the light at the end of the tunnel begins to brighten, I urge all those involved to keep future benefits and impacts firmly entrenched in your priorities as you carry out your work. With crises come opportunities and the time to start “recovery” is now, during the response.  


If we wait, the world’s focus will undoubtedly move to other emergencies and it will be too late to develop an enduring impact. 


The expected influx of resources and attention over the coming months and years provide a unique prospect to not only secure West Africa and the world against the current curse of Ebola, but to put in place a resilient human and physical infrastructure, an infrastructure that not only impacts today’s crisis but will protect against future disease outbreaks and serve the needs of the citizens of the region for an even brighter future. 


In closing, I want to commend everyone in attendance on the progress made so far.  


I am confident that the hard work invested in this gathering will result in strengthened collaboration among all of the assembled partners as well as a better understanding of the gaps and issues that impede the durable resolution to this crisis. 


Perhaps, most importantly, I want to recognise and praise those working in the field; selfless citizens from the affected countries, the region, the continent and from around the world.  


They are the true heroes of this crisis, putting their lives directly on the line for others, for us.  It is because of their work that we can sit here today and envision an end to the crisis.  


As we toil together to battle Ebola, all of us need to remind ourselves of their sacrifice and redouble our efforts. 


Thank you for coming and being part of this critical effort.



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Minimum wage inadequate

Wednesday, 21 January 2015 10:19

A motivated workforce is vital for increased productivity and overall national development. 

The wage system has been, and continues to be, one of the ways of motivating workers, besides putting in place other motivating mechanisms.

By and large, workers’ satisfaction is based on several factors, such as passion for the job, the availability of working tools, and general standard of living. 

However, the wages and salaries that workers receive at the end of each working period are overriding, which cannot be dispensed with but must be a matter of critical concern.

It is in this vein that in many jurisdictions, such as ours, national minimum wages are agreed upon each year to ensure parity at the base of the wage scheme of things.

Several factors are taken into consideration in calculating the minimum wage, such as fiscal measures, the cost of living and national production levels.

Yesterday, a new national minimum wage of GH¢7, representing an increase in the minimum wage by 16.7% over the old minimum wage of GH¢6, was agreed on by the National Tripartite Committee (NTC).

The increment takes a retrospective effect from January 1, 2015.  

Accordingly, all establishments, institutions and organisations whose minimum wage is below GH¢6 are to adjust their wages to reflect the new minimum wage.

The Finder considers the increment as far below expectations as the stark reality is that the minimum wage is highly inadequate. 

This is because the cost of living for 2014 has gone up by almost 100% and only an astronomical increase in wages can give Ghanaians some. 

This is why many reactions come from the public each time a new minimum wage is announced.

Undoubtedly, many cases abound in this country of workers taking home less than what has been prescribed to be paid as the minimum wage, and those workers who are affected remain helpless, without any means of addressing their concerns.

First, they fear losing their jobs and, second and more critical, job creation in this country has been woefully inadequate or non-existent; therefore, the Ghanaian worker is always left in a quandary, not knowing what to do except keep quiet to be cheated.

Things are really hard and workers deserve nothing but wages or salaries which can take them home in view of the high cost of living, coupled with high taxes, bills and utility rates.

GH¢7 is not enough to feed just one individual a day, let alone feed families.

It about time Ghana adopted the system in countries such as the United State of America, where workers are paid for each hour of work done.


Let’s hear the insurers out

Thursday, 22 January 2015 09:20

It appears Ghana is too “rich” to care about wastage and too slow to act to halt what serves as a drain on its economy. It is intriguing that this is happening at a time when the economy is in bad shape, with the odds against us.

Statistics from the Ghana National Fire Service (GNSF), reveal that fire disasters in the first two months of last year caused damage to life and properties worth GH¢2,427,911.00 

This colossal amount, which is the total of various values placed on properties destroyed across the country, merely covers January and February 2014.

 Accra topped the list with a total damage valued at GH¢168,260, followed by Western Region with GH¢96,680, then Brong Ahafo Region GH¢80,621 while that of Volta Region stands at GH¢60,270.

The Northern Region recorded GH¢14,780 while Tema had GH¢7,300. 

Only last week, news broke that fire had completely engulfed the Central Medical Stores of the Ministry of Health (MOH). 

The store was where all of Ghana’s medical and related supplies were kept for distribution to health facilities across the country. The storage facility also served as a depot for World Health Organization's supplies.

The MOH has since the incident confirmed that the facility had no insurance cover as initial attempts with SIC failed to materialize. 

There were no fatalities but GH¢230million cedis worth of damage was recorded. 

We find it interesting that the sector minister after assessing the damage sought to calm down the nerves of Ghanaians as he declared that there was nothing to worry about, since the loss of GH¢230 million worth of medical supplies was apparently not enough to affect the supply of drugs to Ghanaians. 

We guess there could be some merit in what some experts have described as Ghana’s needless trip to the International Monetary Fund for assistance.

The GH¢230 million worth of drugs destroyed by the fire was enough to build at least 12 CHPS compounds, enough to clear the remainder of debts owed the Bulk Oil Distribution Companies for which Ghanaians are suffering non-reduction of fuel prices despite the 60 per cent fall in oil prices on the world market.

The Insurance industry has described the loss and the lack of insurance cover for the facility as regrettable but avoidable, especially at such a time when government is grappling with its finances.

The Ghana Insurers Association (GIA) has re-echoed its appeal for all national strategic assets including the seat of government to be insured. 

GIA’s president, Mr Ivan Avereyireh stresses that the industry has the capacity to insure the assets to avert the losses the country is incurring and to take pressure off government.

We cannot but agree with GIA on this score but beyond that we find it quite distasteful that government has toyed with sensitive issues as this with the usual excuse of “there is no money.”

Suffice to say that the immediate reaction from the health ministry was to direct that all its assets be insured against similar disasters. However, hours after that announcement, the sector minister himself declared that not all assets of the ministry will be insured as “there is no money.”

We find this rather disappointing as this statement does not place serious premium on government’s assets.


Fighting discrimination against women

Tuesday, 27 January 2015 10:24

Fighting violence and discrimination against women is one of the major development concerns of Ghana. Discrimination against women and the marginalised defies the modest gains of the country’s fledgling democracy.  

Though the provision of various legislative and policy frameworks had made Ghana to achieve significant strides in the promotion and protection of women’s rights, women continue to face formidable barriers in the enjoyment of their rights because of the gaps between the legal provisions and implementation of the law.

Despite the explicit prohibition of discrimination in the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, women suffer various forms of discrimination such as female genital mutilation, Trokosi and other socio-cultural practices.

This is because such constitutional provisions, in some cases, do not have precise provisions to prohibit indirect discrimination to enable women to enjoy their rights and liberties just as men.

The situation is alarming as it appears that minimal attention has been paid to the practical realisation of the principle of equality of men and women, such that certain socio-cultural practices which indirectly contribute to discrimination against women persist.

The abuse and violations of the rights of vulnerable persons, especially against women, children and persons with disability, persist.

Therefore, the inclusion of gender equality and women’s empowerment as one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is a reminder that most of these promises are yet to be implemented.

The lack of policies and measures to give women the needed opportunity necessary has made those with disability to suffer more in Ghana, although they form the majority of the population.

It is up to the government and policymakers to be on their toes to ensure that the necessary steps are taken to safeguard the rights of women.

There should also be active co-ordination and collaboration amongst various actors working directly or indirectly at enhancing women’s rights, with the overall aim of harnessing resources, as well as avoiding duplication and wastage of scarce resources.

There is, therefore, the need for government and Parliament to make sure that the Constitutional Review Committee looks at these policies and make women’s right as well as disability rights friendly for the development of the country.  


Audit all power plants

Thursday, 29 January 2015 09:35

Ghana's Trade and Industry Minister, Dr Ekwow Spio Garbrah last week appealed to foreign investors not to turn away from the country because of the current energy crisis.

The plea, we gather was prompted by concerns from one of the mining firms in the country to the effect that the unreliable supply of power was fast becoming disincentive to foreign direct investments.

This was at no less an event than the third edition of the Ghana Economic Outlook and Business Strategy conference which was held in Accra last week. 

Ghana, according to the mining firm could be losing out on competition from other countries in investment attraction if the power crisis is not fixed.

In as much as we appreciate the Minister's difficulty in having to assure investors that the crisis is short term, we think Ghanaians and the business community deserve better.

For almost four years now Ghanaians have been enduring long hours of power outages due to the inability of power producers to generate sufficient power to meet the country’s energy needs.

It is sad to see businesses folding up because they cannot afford the high cost of generators and fuel while others have been forced to drastically cut down on their staff strength in order to make savings to cater for alternative sources of power.

Ghana’s power problems must be properly investigated and fixed.

The Business Finder  wishes to associate itself with a call by the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) for a technical audit of all power generating plants.

We believe an audit will enable us understand what the problems are with the plants and why they are unable to provide the required amount of power.

We call for an inquiry into claims by ACEP that the Takoradi Thermal Plant (T-3) for instance, has been inefficient because it was not built to suit our environment.

One wonders how anyone would take a decision to procure a plant that cannot run in our environment. 

It is the responsibility of government to ensure that the technocrats who are paid with tax payer’s money live up to their responsibilities.