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The Public Relations Officer (PRO) for the Youth Employment Agency (YEA), Awal Mohammed has explained that the institution suspended the payment of salaries for some 24, 000 beneficiaries due fraud in the system. According to him, the suspension was necessitated due to some discrepancies detected on the beneficiary payroll. Awal Mohammed speaking to Kwame Tutu on Rainbow Radio 87.5fm said preliminary audit on the payroll revealed that some beneficiaries using the same E-zwich numbers; Two thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine (2,999) beneficiaries not at post but continue to draw allowance;  Payments made to some beneficiaries for no work done; Non-payment of some beneficiaries since May 2016 leading to huge arrears; and Some beneficiaries working without appointment and assumption of duty letters. YEA in a statement issued earlier said the ‘’preliminary audit by Management has saved the Agency and the Ghanaian taxpayer, One million, sixty seven thousand and seven hundred Ghana cedis (GH? 1,067,700) per month. On the basis of these findings, Management has commissioned the Internal Audit Agency to conduct a special audit into the operations of the Agency. This has become necessary in order to provide a platform for the new administration to take measures to prevent the scandals that rocked the Agency in the past.’’ He told the host that the offenders who manipulated the payroll would be pursued and punished according to the law. According to him, EOCO has been brought in to reconcile the matter.   ‘’We are investigating to ensure that we pay those who deserve to be paid and those who should be deleted and finally those who should be prosecuted. We do not want the beneficiaries to be complaining of unpaid allowances and so we have to investigate and reconcile the issue,’’ he added.
Russia's Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that Jehovah's Witnesses were an "extremist" organization and must disband and hand over all property to the state, local media said.   The religious grouping confirmed the ruling about its "liquidation" in Russia.   "We are greatly disappointed by this development and deeply concerned about how this will affect our religious activity,” Yaroslav Sivulskiy, a spokesman for Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, said in emailed comments.   "We will appeal this decision, and we hope that our legal rights and protections as a peaceful religious group will be fully restored as soon as possible."   Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia have 30 days to submit their appeal for consideration by a three-person panel.   Religious life in Russia is dominated by the Orthodox Church, which exerts considerable political influence and enjoys the support of President Vladimir Putin. Some Orthodox scholars view Jehovah's Witnesses as a 'totalitarian sect'.   Interfax news agency quoted Sergei Cherepanov, a Jehovah's Witnesses representative, as saying that the group will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.   "We will do everything possible," he said.   Russian authorities have put several of the group's publications on a list of banned extremist literature and prosecutors have long cast it as an organization that destroys families, fosters hatred and threatens lives. The group, a United States-based Christian denomination known for its door-to-door preaching and rejection of military service and blood transfusions, says this description is false.   The religious organization has expanded around the world and has about eight million active followers. It has faced court proceedings in several countries, mostly over its pacifism and rejection of blood transfusions, but Russia has been most outspoken in portraying it as an extremist cult.   The ruling was issued after the justice ministry applied for an order to shut down the group's national headquarters near St Petersburg.   Its Russian branch, based near St Petersburg, has said a ban would directly affect around 400 of its groups and have an impact on all of its 2,277 religious groups in Russia, where it says it has 175,000 followers.   (Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Ralph Boulton)     Source: Reuters 
President Akufo-Addo has reiterated his resolve to deal with illegal mining popularly referred to as galamsey. The president who was speaking at  a durbar at the Dormaahene’s Palace in the Brong Ahafo Region,  said “The Ghana handed down to us by our forefathers is the same Ghana we must leave for the unborn generations. We must not allow Galamsey to destroy our country, no way.’’   The president also reassured the traditional rulers that he will deal with the issue of vigilante groups. “If the rule of law is to work in Ghana then the law should be no respecter of persons neither should it be a respecter of one’s affiliations. If you as a Paramount Chief flouts the law, the law must deal with you.   “Whether you voted for me or not, whether you supported me or not, I am going to be the President for all. I am going to work with each and everyone of you. As President I need the support of all chiefs and traditional rulers across the country. This is the only way by which we can develop all parts of the country and bring prosperity to all.     
The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has assured that each of the 216 districts across the country will get a factory within the first four years of his government, in fulfillment of his 1-District-1-Factory campaign pledge.   According to the President, the first batch of 51 districts, for the implementation of the 1-District-1-Factory policy, have been identified, for which the ‘Asempa Budget’, as approved by Parliament, has earmarked $465 million for setting up of the 51 factories.   “All I ask for is God’s wisdom, guidance and strength, and, I assure you that by the end of my first term in office, each district would have a factory. 51 out of 216 in my first year indicates that even before my first four years are over, each district would have its own factory,” he said.   President Akufo-Addo made this known on Thursday, April 20, 2017, the final day of his 2-day tour of the Brong Ahafo Region, during separate courtesy calls on the Omanhene of Sunyani, Nana Bosome Asor Nkrawiri II, and the Omanhene of the Dormaa Traditional Area, Oseadeeyor Agyemang Badu, at their respective palaces.   The President told the Chiefs that the purpose of his presence in the Region, and in their palaces, was to thank the people of the Region, and in particular residents of Sunyani and Dormaa, for the support offered to him in the election of 2016.   “Whether you voted for me or not, whether you supported me or not, I am going to be President for all, and I am going to work with each and every one of you. As President, I need the support of all the Chiefs and traditional rulers across the country. This is the only way by which we can develop all parts of the country, and bring prosperity to all,” he said.   Addressing the issue of “galamsey”, the President stated that his government has resolved to stopping this menace, which is destroying lands and water bodies, stressing that “the Ghana bequeathed to us by our forebears is the same Ghana we must leave for the unborn generations.”   On the recent happenings in Kumasi involving the issue of Delta Force, President Akufo-Addo stated that if the rule of law is to work in Ghana, then law must be no respecter of person, neither should it be a respecter of one’s political affiliations.   “If you, as a paramount chief, flout the law, the law must deal with you,” he said   With the Omanhene of Dormaa requesting for the construction of a Sports Stadium for the Brong Ahafo Region, and the completion of the University of Energy and Naturel Resources in Dormaa, the President assured that in due time, these requests will be granted.   “I inherited a poor economy. My predecessor did not leave me much money. What he, rather, left me was a lot of debt. Nonetheless, we are beginning to turn the fortunes of our country around, and we will find the money for the construction of the stadium and the completion of the University,” he added.   On the decision to listen to Ghanaians, and accommodate various shades of opinion on national matters, the President stated that “it is for this reason that I invited my three predecessors to seek their views on certain governance and developmental related issues. They accepted my invitation and gave me invaluable advice. This will not be a ‘one-day-wonder’. It will be a feature of my administration.”   At a durbar held at Dormaa Presby Park, where a durbar of Chiefs and people of Dormaa was held in honour of him, President Akufo-Addo assured trainee nurses of the restoration of their allowances from September 2017.   Additionally, the Free SHS policy, he added, will commence from September 2017, beginning from the students who qualify for entry in the 2017/2018 academic year.     “All the promises I made in the campaign are not just mere promises. These are pledges I will fulfill, and I assure you that under my administration, Ghana will be returned onto the path of progress and prosperity,” he said.
The Ministry of Finance has issued a statement to rubbish the allegation by the Minority that, Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta sold the ninety five percent of Ghana’s recent 2.25 billion dollar bond to friends and cronies. The Minority Spokesperson on Finance, Cassiel Ato Forson, claimed at a press conference on Tuesday that  a non-executive director on the board of investment firm, Franklin Templeton that purchased majority of the bonds is also the Chairman of the Enterprise Group; a company closely aligned to the private interests of the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta. But the statement issued by the Public Affairs Department of the Ministry said: ‘’ The Ministry considers the statement as unfortunate especially as it was fronted by Cassiel Ato Forson, a former Deputy Finance Minister, who knows very well the workings and processes for the issue of domestic bonds and as such, should not be making such baseless allegations.’’     Read the statement below: The attention of the Ministry of Finance has been drawn to a statement issued by the Minority in Parliament which seeks to cast negative aspersions on the GH9.7 billion ($2.25 billion) domestic bond issue of the government of Ghana. The Ministry considers the statement as unfortunate especially as it was fronted by Cassiel Ato Forson, a former Deputy Finance Minister, who knows very well the workings and processes for the issue of domestic bonds and as such, should not be making such baseless allegations. As such, the Ministry has no choice but to surmise that these allegations are maliciously designed to malign and negate the positive news and rave reviews this landmark transaction has garnered, both locally and internationally. 3. The Minority statement sets out three major claims which the Ministry will like to clear. (a) That the issuance was shrouded in secrecy to the extent that other investors were denied the opportunity to participate in the transaction. (b) The transaction was “cooked” to favor a particular investor (Franklin Templeton (FT)) just because a director of one of the funds FT manages, knows the Finance Minister; and (c) The transaction should have received Parliamentary approval because it technically should be considered to be a dollar-denominated sovereign bond issue due to the level of foreign investor participation and that, in the view of the Minority, it amounted to a private placement Response To the aforementioned claims, the Ministry responds as follows: The issuance was not shrouded in secrecy nor was it “cooked” for any particular investor.  The Bookrunners, (Barclays, Stanbic and SAS), on behalf of the Ministry of Finance have been mandated since 2015 to issue these domestic bonds on a regular basis as per the debt issuance calendar which Ministry of Finance (MoF) puts out every quarter. Also, the book runners announce and publish every impending bond issue to the market, the week of issue and provide price guidance to the market. This particular bond issue was no different and was done in conformity with the established process. It was announced by the Book Runners to the market on March 30, via email and same published on MoF and Bank of Ghana (BoG) websites with settlement on April 3. FT was not the only participant, there were over 25 other buyers including other foreign entities, who all brought in dollars to convert to cedis to buy the bonds. This bond issue, like all the others done prior could not have been designed to favour any single investor. The conventional processes for the issue of bonds using the book building approach were adhered to in this particular issuance. It is our understanding that the said investor engaged various market participants and other key institutions including the IMF before deciding to participate in the bonds. It is worth noting that local investors also participated. The said investor participated in the issuance in the manner they have always done since 2006 through their local Primary Dealer, Barclays Bank and their local custodians, Standard Chartered Bank and Stanbic Bank. To have obtained preferential treatment, all the above-mentioned institutions would have had to conspire to do so, a situation which is unfathomable.  The investor in question, FT, has held Government of Ghana bonds of up to USD 2 Billion prior to this transaction. Indeed FT has been buying and investing in government bonds since 2006. This issuance, like all other domestic bonds issued under this bond program since 2015, did not require Parliamentary approval. Approval was given under the initial application to Parliament in the 2015 Budget Statement and Economic Policy document, to run such a bond issuance program. The Ministry of Finance has the mandate to fund the deficit as contained in the budget approved by Parliament through the issuance of debt instruments and to manage the countries debt stock Impact of this Transaction The issuance brought in significant amount of foreign currency, which was converted into cedis to purchase the bond, helping to strengthen the value of the Cedi and providing much-needed respite for the citizens of Ghana The transaction will also lengthen the maturity periods of government debts thereby reducing the short-term redemption and rollover pressures on government. The proceeds from the bond issue are to be used for liability management and for the re-profiling of our domestic debt stock by repaying more expensive short-term debt as it matures, as such, it shall not add to the total debt stock of the nation. This deal is a positive move in the current debt management strategy being pursued by the government and should be applauded. Conclusion The Ministry hereby informs the general public to disregard these allegations as they are unfounded and malicious and seek to undermine the credibility and integrity of your Government. (Signed) ISSUED BY THE PUBLIC RELATIONS UNIT   MINISTRY OF FINANCE
The Volta Regional Minister, Dr. Archibald Letsa has described as unfortunate the renewed clashes between the Nkonyas and Alavanyos yesterday [Wednesday]. Two people are dead and several others injured following renewed clashes between Nkonyas and their age-old rivals, the Alavanyos. Commenting on the incident on Rainbow Radio 87.5Fm, the regional minister said, ‘’it was so unfortunate that such an incident should occur again in the area because the last incident was in January where a life was lost in Alavanyo. And we made every effort to get to the communities to educate them on the importance of maintaining peace and order. And they were quiet cooperative and with  assistance from the regional police council.’’ He said, everything has been going on very well until 3 persons tapping palm wine were attacked, two killed and one currently hospitalized yesterday [Wednesday]. The minister told Rainbow Radio that, calm has been restored but ‘’there is seemingly tension we have to control…’’ He said, this is a case of murder and so we will have to investigate and bring the offenders to book. He appealed for calm among the two groups since law and order has been restored. Dr. Letsa stressed the need for residents to maintain peace since it will be impossible to develop the region with a divided front.   ‘’The government will commit all resources to find a lasting solution to this problem,’’ he assured.
President Akufo-Addo has given the hint that the Ahafo region will be created in 18 months. The president said, “the time for the creation of the Ahafo region is due. I promise you that within the next 18 months, the opportunity is going to be given for you to have the Ahafo region.”   The president gave the hint when he visited the Acherensua Senior High School in the Brong Ahafo Region, as part of his two-day tour of the region.   He also called on the chiefs and residents to continue supporting the New Patriotic Party (NPP) so it delivers on its campaign promises.   “The task ahead of us is an arduous one. We inherited a very bad economy. Nonetheless, and with God’s guidance, we are beginning to turn things around and we are confident that we will succeed. “This is why from September 2017, the Free SHS policy, which was a major campaign pledge, will commence, beginning from those who qualify for entry in the 2017/2018 academic year.’’ President Akufo-Addo assured authorities and students of the school that the Ministry of Education will address their concerns – the construction of a dormitory block and an ICT lab for the school.   “The rehabilitation of your science laboratory is one that is dear to my heart, and I will pay a lot of attention to. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics education is one we have to pay much attention to if we are to succeed in this country,” he said.
Chief Technical advisor at the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Asante Krobea has reiterated that the flagship agricultural programme, ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ launched by President Akufo-Addo yesterday [Wednesday] will not fail but inure to the benefits of every Ghanaian.   Speaking to Rainbow Radio 87.5Fm, he said a total of 100,000 out of the 200, 000 farmers expected for the pilot have been selected.   He added, ‘’we are in the implementation stage now.’’   Mr. Asante indicated, it is our expectation that the remaining 100,000 would soon be registered for the project.   The programme, is expected to modernize agriculture, improve production, achieve food security and make Ghana more self-sufficient, whilst creating jobs for the youth.   Launching the programme yesterday, the president said, the policy “is anchored on the pillars that will transform Ghana’s agriculture; the provision of improved seeds, the supply of fertilizers, the provision of dedicated extension services and marketing strategy. The initiative is expected to increase the production of maize by 30%, rice by 49%, soybean by 25% and sorghum by 28% for current production levels.   Government he explained will roll out policies to help develop the sector.   This government is committed and will do all possible to modernize agriculture, improve production efficiency, achieve food security, and profitability for farmers. Agriculture is the backbone of our economy and so, it is not a misplaced priority to invest heavily in it. Investing heavily in agriculture will ensure food security and job creation, he stressed.   The Planting for Food and Jobs is expected to be rolled out in all 216 districts across the country, and will involve the supply of farm resources such as high yielding and improved seedlings to participating farmers.   The programme, according to the government, would also motivate farmers to grow staple foods such as maize, millet, and beans. Interested farmers are to be provided with free seedlings among other agricultural inputs and agro-chemicals such as fertilizer at reduced prices. It is expected to create 750,000 jobs especially the youth.       
Businessman Ibrahim Mahama was ordered by the Economic and Organised Crime (EOCO) to deposit his passport with the state investigative body. This came after he was invited by EOCO to answer questions over some dud cheques he issued to the customs division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) at the Tema Port to clear some heavy duty equipment he had imported. Commenting on the development, a financial consultant, Mr. Korankye Antwi explained that, issuance of a dud cheque could be deliberate or an oversight. He said, such an action is a criminal offence and comes with sanctions including a 10 percent charge on the amount.   He noted, if it is indeed true that, the businessman issued a total of 44 dud cheques in 2016, then it raises a lot of serious questions and `quizzed why the GRA failed to take action. He stressed, it is a criminal offence to even issue one dud cheque and so if it is true that he [Ibrahim Mahama] issued 44 dud cheques in 2016, then the GRA must be questioned why they failed to act. Lawyer Maurice Ampaw, a private legal practitioner was also emphatic that, a criminal offence should not be covered up irrespective of the person involved. He said, Ibrahim Mahama should be charged for deceiving a public officer. According to him, this case should not be treated out of court. ‘’Nana Addo and the NPP should not treat Ibrahim Mahama with kid gloves. Ghanaians will punish them dearly if they fail to punish Ibrahim Mahama for issuing a dud cheque.’’ He further called on the NDC to allow due process to be followed in this case to ensure that, Ibrahim Mahama is punished. He also charged the judiciary to learn from the criticism pounced on them by the NDC following the case involving the Delta Force and deal with this case holistically. ‘’The law is no respecter of person. The NPP must deal with the case without fear or favour…The people are calling for accountability. The people are calling for corrupt officials to be punished. We should not go in for a settlement because this is a criminal offence. Crime has no political colour and the one who committed that crime, must be punished,’’ he added.    
The Member of Parliament (MP) for Swedru constituency, Kennedy Osei Nyarko has slammed the Minority in Parliament for making unfounded allegation against the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta. He also chastised the Minority for intensifying their propaganda in opposition barely a year after losing the 2016 general elections. The Minority in Parliament has alleged that, Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta sold the ninety five percent of Ghana’s recent 2.25 billion dollar bond to friends and cronies. They have therefore called for a full scale investigation into the case since they believe it smells. The Minority Spokesperson on Finance, Cassiel Ato Forson, claimed at a press conference on Tuesday that  a non-executive director on the board of investment firm, Franklin Templeton that purchased majority of the bonds is also the Chairman of the Enterprise Group; a company closely aligned to the private interests of the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta. But the MP on the Majority’s side speaking to Kwame Tutu on Rainbow Radio 87.5Fm said, the allegations are untrue and has called on the public to treat it with contempt. He said, the Minority members are bitter because the NPP has been able to do due diligence in issuing the bonds unlike the previous government who  exhibited incompetence in the discharge of their duties. He added, the company in question does not  belong to the Minister is not doing business with Ghana for the first time and has done similar transactions with the NDC. Government on Monday April 3, 2017, announced it was successful in the auction of a total of 2.25 billion dollars in four bonds.   The first two bonds, totaling 1.13 billion dollars, was issued at 15 and 7 years period with the same coupon of 19.75%. In addition, the Ministry of Finance raised the cedi equivalent of USD1.12 billion in 5 and 10 year bonds via a tap-in arrangement. 
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