Baba Yara Stadium is now ready for CAN 2008.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Illegal water connections uncovered

THE Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) has uncovered a deal in which farmers operating along the company’s distribution lines from the Barekese headworks had illegally connected pipelines to the main water lines supplying water to the Kumasi metropolis.
An exercise carried out by the Ashanti Regional Management of Aqua Vitens Rand Limited, acting for and on behalf of the GWCL, revealed that the farmers used the treated water purposely meant for domestic, commercial and industrial uses, for full-scale irrigation of their private farms.
The farmers have illegally connected long PVC pipes and water hoses with sprinklers to the distribution pipelines to water vegetable and citrus farms.
The Ashanti Regional Chief Manager of the GWCL, Mr Obeng Manu, said the practice was greatly affecting the company’s ability to supply potable water to the Kumasi metropolis.
He gave the names of the areas where the farmers had illegally connected to the main pipelines as Akropong, Tabre, Nketia, Fufuo, Barekuma and Adankwame, all in the Atwima Nwabiagya District in Ashanti Region.
The company has since seized a large quantity of PVC pipes from those farms but the owners are on the run.
Mr Obeng Manu said the areas mentioned were close to the headworks and were connected to the main transmission pipelines, hence water was drawn at very high pressures.
“The implications are that these illegal activities reduce the pressure of water flow in our pipelines and reduce the quantity of water reaching central Kumasi for distribution to consumers”, the Chief Manager said.
He said the habit contributed to depriving the company the needed revenue and pointed out that “we cannot allow this behaviour to go unpunished”.
Mr Manu said the company was collaborating with the police to arrest all those people and that anybody arrested would be made to pay for the cost of water used over the period plus a penalty. He said they would also forfeit the items seized.
He appealed for assistance from the communities, especially from chiefs, assembly members and unit committee members, to help track down all those who have done the illegal connections since their activities could affect water supply to the communities.
The Chief Manager said people should bear in mind that treated water was not meant for irrigation purposes and that all those engaged in such activities should stop forthwith or would be forced to stop.

Progress of National Health Insurance Scheme in Ashanti

The implementation of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in the Ashanti region is progressing steadily despite some problems the scheme faced at its initial stages.
Presently about 38 percent of the population in the region had been covered by the scheme, according to Dr Joe Bonney, a Deputy Director for Clinical Care at the Ghana Health Service and Ashanti Regional Co-ordinator of the NHIS.
He explained that the scheme had achieved some significant successes as almost all health facilities in the region had signed contracts with the various mutual health insurance schemes (MHIS) to provide service to registered clients.
Information gathered indicates that the percentage coverage by the scheme is greater in the districts of the region than in the Kumasi metropolis probably due to apathy in the city.
However, only about 68 percent of registered clients have been utilising the services of the scheme due to the delay in the issuance of membership identification cards (ID) and the serving of probation period of three to six months before cards are issued to enable clients benefit from the scheme.
In an interview with Dr Bonney, he said there seemed to be an over utilisation of health facilities by some registered members of the NHIS simply because they were conscious that the scheme would take care of their medical bills.
He, however, described the situation as a good sign since it could be interpreted as, “people are gradually becoming conscious of their health and resorting to medical attention before their cases become complicated”.
But this has been described as an abuse of the system by some of the scheme managers, who think that people unnecessarily go to the hospital just to test the scheme while others do that just to ensure that they utilise the scheme before the term of their premium expires in a particular year.
Mr Francis Atta-Poku, Scheme Manager of the Subin Mutual Health Insurance Scheme told the Daily Graphic that most people unnecessarily go to the hospital especially getting to the latter part of the year when they feel they have not utilised their cards and their premiums were about expiring with the end of the year.
He said he had witnessed a case where a man sent four of his kids to the Children’s Hospital in Kumasi at a go with the explanation that the kids looked dull the previous day while they watched television but when the man was probed further, it came to light that he only wanted to utilise the scheme since he felt his premium for the year was about expiring at a time none of the family members had attended hospital.
Aside the successes of the scheme, it had been experiencing some challenges such as the delay in the issuance of the Identification Cards (ID).
Many people the Daily Graphic spoke to randomly in Kumasi, expressed their frustration with the delayin the issuance of the cards and called on the scheme managers to do something about the situation.
The delay in the issuance of the cards had been partly attributed to the of lack of the requisite human resource and equipment needed to process the cards.
Others have been attributed to the reluctance of registered members to go to the offices of various schemes to demand for their cards.
Most of the identification cards (ID) were locked up in the offices of the various schemes as people who have registered with the schemes have not gone for them.
At the offices of the Subin Mutual Health Insurance Scheme (MHIS) in Kumasi for instance, a large number of ID cards were yet to be collected and according to the Scheme Manager, Mr Atta-Poku, because they are many, it makes it cumbersome for staff at the office to go through them and give them out, anytime a person comes to demand for his card.
Beside that there are other problems such as lack of human resource and limited space at the various health facilities providing health service to people.
According to Dr Bonney, the introduction of the NHIS had resulted in an increase in the attendance of hospitals but most of the health facilities have limited staff and space to cater for the increase.
He said that was militating against the successful implementation of the NHIS as the limited space have been resulting in congestion at the Out Patient Departments (OPD) of most facilities and thus making it uncomfortable for patients.
He also explained that the payment of claims presented by health providers to various schemes had not been honoured on time and since most of the health facilities operate on internally generated funds (IGF) the delays in the payment of their claims have been affecting their operations.
He said the Manhyia Hospital for instance rendered services to clients of the Manhyia Scheme amounting to about ¢956million in year 2006 but only $582million had been paid as of the end of the year.
This anomaly, Dr Bonney said, needed to be worked on in order to help make the scheme sustainable.
The Scheme Managers on their part have explained that the subsidies from the National Health Insurance Council (NHIC) had not been forthcoming on time, which sometimes result in the delay.
Aside that they explain that the health facilities do not also submit their claims on time.
Mr Atta Poku of the Subin Scheme for instance explained that his outfit receives an average subsidy of about ¢400million from the NHIC on quarterly basis with which the scheme support it with premiums collected to settle claims, hence the payment of claims are bound to be delayed sometimes.
For instance, he said, in 2006 his outfit paid a total claim of ¢1.5billion while it was able to mobilise ¢1.7billion as premium.
He said a total of 69,000 people had been registered as of the end of 2006.
In trying to find lasting solutions to the difficulties associated with the implementation of the scheme, Dr Bonney suggested that the sensitisation and educational campaigns should be intensified and called for the need for people to see the hiccups in the implementation of the scheme as a social problem and shouldn’t leave the blame only on the scheme managers alone.
He also called for the need to try and get rid of the politicisation of the scheme and try to accelerate the networking of the system to help improve communication between the various schemes and service providers.
Presently most of the schemes offices are partly computerised.
Dr Bonney said the GHS, on its part, was also going all out to help ensure that drugs listed on the NHIS Drug list were available at provider facilities and added that the scheme was highly beneficial hence more people should be encouraged to register as things would be better as the scheme moves forward.

Enforce building regulations - Asamoah-Boateng

The Minister of Local Government, Rural Development and Environment, Mr Stephen Asamoah-Boateng, has asked building inspectors in Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies to strictly enforce building regulations to help stem the tide of shoddy works on buildings and their attendant collapse.
He said from hence building inspectors together with their various district, municipal and metropolitan engineers with whose jurisdiction a building collapses could be held liable.
The Minister said there was the need to ensure that the right thing was being done in the building industry.
Mr Asamoah Boateng said this when he met staff of the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (KMA) at the beginning of a two-week official tour of the Ashanti Region.
The tour would enable him inspect ongoing government projects and programmes and projects.
In December, last year, a five-storey building belonging to the OA Travel and Tours at Asafo in Kumasi collapsed and resulted in the death of two people.
In early 2006, another storey building at Bantama opposite the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) also collapsed and resulted in some fatalities.
Mr Asamoah Boateng said the Ministry was very much concerned about the spate of the collapses and charges building inspectors to constantly go out and check the state of buildings.
He asked them not to hesitate to demolish any building which had no building permit.
Mr Asamoah Boateng inspected a number of projects in the Metropolis, which included the City Hotel complex, Asafo Interchange, Kumasi Landfill site, Asafo Market, Jackson Park and Kwadaso market.
The Minister said he had four priorities which he intended to implement to the letter at the Ministry.
This included service delivery, Sanitation, decentralisation and team work.
He said his ministry was working on making some changes in various by-laws at the districts to ensure effective compliance.
"For example were exact fines are quoted in the by-laws, we want to change it to penalty points so that the fines don't depreciate with inflation", he said.
Mr Asamoah Boateng also paid a courtesy call on the Ashanti Regional Minister, Mr E. A. Owusu Ansah.
Mr Owusu Ansah appealed to Mr Asamoah Boateng to concentrate more on feeder roads in the region.
He said the feeder roads in the region were in very deplorable state and needed to be worked on since rural communities depended on those roads so much in getting foodstuffs to urban centres.

Ecofest and Opemsoo Festival

The second Opemsoo festival, with the aim of honouring the founder of the Asante Nation, King Osei Tutu I has been launched in Kumasi.
It is expected to be held alongside this year’s Ecotourism Festival which would be staged at Kokofu-Anyinam in the Bosomtwe-Atwima-Kwanwoma District of Ashanti from September 1-6.
The theme for the celebration is, “Celebrating the Golden Jubilee for people, nature and culture”.
Opemsoo is an appellation for the first King of the Asante Nation, King Osei Tutu I who was born at Kokofu-Anyinam and that the festival is to help bring to the limelight the birth place of the great King as well as help to harness the Ecotourism potential in the area.
The birth place of the great King and infact the place where his umbilical cord was buried at the time of his birth in early 1700 had been preserved and regarded as a sacred place.
All persons including the Asantehene visit the place bare footed.
At the launching ceremony, Nana Kwasi Donkor, a Deputy Director at the Centre for National Culture (CNC) said the festival was to be used as a stepping stone to woo tourists to the birth place of the great King.
“Just as Christians go to Jerusalem to see the birth place of Jesus Christ and Muslims go to Mecca to also see the birth place of Muhammed, we would also want Asantes and people from all corners of the earth to come to Kokofu-Anyinam to see the birth place of King Osei Tutu I, the founder of the Asante Nation”, he said.
He said the mother of King Osei Tutu, Madam Gyamfuaa Manu, who was a royal at Kokofu was on her way to her hometown at Esiease when she suddenly went into labour on the way and since she could not continue the journey to her hometown, she branched to Esiease where she gave birth to the great King and stayed there for 40 days before moving away.
Among activities lined up for the festival includes general cleaning exercise in villages in the Kokofu area, a tree planting exercise to improve upon the greenery in the area, a quiz competition for school children, a football gala competition, cultural display and an international seminar on the topic harnessing the ecotourism potential of Lake Bosomtwe.
Mr Ben Anane Nsiah, Ashanti Regional Manager of the Ghana Tourist Board in an address said tourism was now a major catalyst for growth in many small communities in the country.
He said in the last two decades stringent measures had been instituted to make ecotourism fruitful since tourism was the fourth major foreign exchange earner for the country..
Currently about 400,000 tourists come to Ghana annually since the country was rich in a strong and an unadulterated culture.
Mr Nsiah said the Opemsoo and Ecotourism Festival therefore were an opportunity to hipe and promote tourism potentials in the country.