Thursday, April 20, 2017

“Give LEAP beneficiaries investment capital for financial independence”- Prof. Emmanuel Debrah

Prof. Emmanuel Debrah has called for an investment mechanism for LEAP beneficiaries to make them financially independent. Lauding the program, he explained that even though the program had reduced poverty and debt levels among the poor, there is the need to make it more sustainable to fully alleviate poverty among the vulnerable in Ghana.

The Senior Political Science Lecturer at the University of Ghana made this call during the panel discussion at the Multi-Stakeholder Social Accountability Policy Advocacy Forum organised by Penplusbytes (PPB), in collaboration with the Centre for Democratic Development and SEND Ghana. The forum was to offer a credible platform for stakeholders to agree on common issues for advocacy and to increase contributions of civil society in promoting accountability on key social intervention programmes, particularly, the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP), the Labour Intensive Public Works (LIPW) and Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme being implemented by government.

He described Ghana’s LEAP programme as an important project that is improving the living conditions of beneficiaries in Ghana. “It has increased school enrolment, and reduced poverty and debt levels among the poor, especially households that have women as heads. It has also boosted the activities of peasant farmers,” he said.

“The stipend has increased the poor peoples’ confidence and status in the community,” he explained.
He asked that mechanism should be put in place to offer beneficiaries investment capital that could make them financially independent in the long term.

Prof Debrah also decried the inconsistency in payments to beneficiaries describing it as “a worrying situation that should be addressed as soon as possible” as some families who depended on the money face difficulties waiting for more than two months in some cases before they receiving lump sums.

The LEAP programme, which aims at alleviating short-term poverty and encourage long-term capital development is a social cash transfer programme that provides cash and health insurance to the extremely poor households across the country.

On his part, Dr Franklin Oduro, Deputy Executive Officer of CDD, said the LEAP programme is gradually moving people away from poverty and has had significant impact on families.
According to him, there was the need, however, to measure and know the actual effect on the people while effort should be made to increase the amount paid to ensure a more sustainable capital base for the people.

The Deputy Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Honourable Gifty Twum Ampofo, in a speech delivered on her behalf by Mr Mawutor Ablo, Director for Policy Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation at the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, cited the overall fragmentation of social protection system, overlaps in programme coverage, duplications of effort and gaps between the various programmes as the key challenges confronting Ghana’s Social Protection efforts.

According to the Deputy Minister, “key challenges have been the uncoordinated institutional arrangements, the overall fragmentation of the social protection system, overlaps in programme coverage, duplications of effort and gaps between the various programmes.”

“Provisions have been made in the Employment and Social Protection project financed by the European Union to enhance capacity in monitoring and effectively managing our social protection Programmes,” she added.

Mr Ablo, on behalf of the Minister, lauded the efforts of Penplusbytes for the Tech Driven project to help analyse the critical social interventions of the state, and other civil society organizations (CSOs) and development partners currently undertaking various independent assessment of the various programmes, feedback from which has provided valuable information to the implementation of these programmes.

The forum which forms part of activities under the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) two-year funded project dubbed, “Tech Driven Social Accountability for Results" brought together representatives of key government agencies, CSO’s, Academia and the media.

The Executive Director of Penplusbytes, Kwami Ahiabenu II said the forum is providing the opportunity for social accountability actors to come out with common issues for a concerted advocacy on better service delivery in the selected social intervention policies by government.

Providing a brief over view of the project, Mr Jerry Sam, Project Director at Penplusbytes, said the Tech Driven Social Accountability for Results Projects, was being implemented in, Ellembelle District Assembly in the Western Region and Ashaiman Municipal Assembly in the Greater Accra Region.

He said the project, which has entered its second year of implementation, was helping monitoring the LEAP and School feeding programmes as well as “to help close the gap between what citizens want and what government actually do”.

According to him, the project’s implementation had revealed poor information flow among the citizens, on various social intervention policy and programmes with citizens having unrealistic expectations of the government.

The “Tech Driven Social Accountability for Results" therefore aims at equipping ordinary citizens with usable information, online and mobile-based platform to ensure their purposeful participation in demanding accountability and responsiveness from decision makers for effective public service delivery, he explained.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Social Media Report Reveals Radio Stations’ Dominant Influence on Facebook and Twitter

In a bid to enhance the work of the media using technology in Africa, Penplusbytes has released its latest social media ratings on Ghana’s Radio, Television and Print media; reviewing the performance of traditional media by gauging how they use Social media, Facebook and Twitter, to engage the ever growing numbers of online audiences looking to consume news faster and on the go.

With collected data remaining valid as at the 31st March, 2017 snap shot, this study measured how media entities utilize and manage their online platforms by employing a quantitative research module which provides relevant numerical figures - the number of ‘Likes’ and ‘Followers’ - which informed the rankings.

Providing an update on the performance of Ghana’s electronic and print media brands on social media as captured in previous indexes, this study was conducted on over 60 newspapers, over 350 registered radio stations and 34 TV stations guaranteed operations in Ghana and on air; from which a rank of the best 10 performing media brands in each category is highlighted.

With the focus on assessing activities and performances of well over 350 radio stations, 60 Newspapers and 34 TV stations guaranteed operations in Ghana and on air to find out the extent to which they are harnessing social media as a News generation and dissemination tool, this report endorses the Facebook’s status as the more popular social media tool in Ghana with greater patronage and use than Twitter. There are, indeed, more Ghanaian radio, TV and newspaper presence on Facebook than there are on Twitter.

Highlights of the report’s findings, which is downloadable here, places Joy FM as the most followed Ghanaian radio station on Facebook and Twitter; crossing the 1 million mark with 1,008,733 Facebook ‘Likes’ and above Citi FM who lie a competitive 2nd  with nearly a million Facebook ‘Likes’ as well (999,388 ‘Likes’).

The Social Media Index (SMI) report also provides detailed on indices for TV and Print categories as well, and draws up a rank of the best 10 performing media brands in each category. It reveals notably impressive performances by media entities such as Joy FM, Citi FM and Starr FM who, without any surprise, have their Twitter accounts verified. They represent a small percentage of best managed pages that are easily identified as official on social media with up-to-the-minute post updates and interaction with audience.
This report indicates that many media houses do not exist on social media or exist but have failed in efficiently and effectively managing their accounts with most pages left without updates for many months and even years in some cases; thereby defeating their purpose.

Kwami Ahiabenu II, Executive Director of Penplusbytes, said the SMI, among other objectives is aimed at providing a regular scorecard on the performance Ghana’s media. “We expect that we would, by this quarterly report, be encouraging more media houses and newsrooms to commit a lot more to building quality online presence to engage their online audience via social media,” he added.

The best performing media houses on social media, according to this report, are those with the most up-to-date posts and interactions while a worrying number of them are yet to realize the potential harm to their brands by the poor manner in which their social media accounts, created in their names, are managed.

Penplusbytes is a not-for-profit organization driving change through innovations in three key areas: using new digital technologies to enable good governance and accountability, new media and innovations, and driving oversight for effective utilisation of mining, oil and gas revenue and resources.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Featured Member for the Month of April: Bob Wekesa

Bob Wekesa is a Kenyan Media and Communications expert who is currently a postdoctoral fellow, School of Literature, Languages and Media Studies, Department of Journalism and Media Studies, University the Witwatersrand. He is also a Research Associate at Wits Africa-China Reporting Project.

Bob obtained a PhD in international communications at Communication University of China and is founding research coordinator at the African Communication Research Centre at Communication University of China. In 2002, he became a Commonwealth Press Union fellow in the UK (Harry Brittain Fellow).

His journalism experience spans reporting, editing and leadership including: editorial director, Kenya Today Newspaper; managing editor, Global Village Publishers (2008-2010) where he helped establish the influential Diplomat East Africa magazine and the Best of Kenya book series; political reporter/features writer, The Standard newspaper, Kenya (1999-2003); correspondent, Reuters African Journal television (2003 – present).

He has also been a leader in the Kenyan media having served as executive chairman of the Kenya Journalists Association (2007-2008) and as deputy secretary general rising to secretary general position at the Kenya Union of Journalists (2003-2007).

Bob Wekesa serves on the boards of the Kenyan Paraplegic and is a member of the ‘Chinese in Africa Africans in China Research Network’ among others.

With research interests in the China-Africa relations generally; focusing on the intersection of international communication and international relations, he has published thoughtful opinion articles widely in newspapers such as Daily Nation (Kenya), The Citizen (Tanzania), The African Daily (USA), China Daily (China), and The Herald (Zimbabwe) among others.

Bob Wekesa is presently current affairs commentator on China Radio International. He has authored two books and chapters in various other books and is currently finalising a China-Africa book project. He has also published in peer reviewed academic journals on the China-Africa communications theme in addition to many conference presentations.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Press Statement: The Civil Society Platform on Ghana’s IMF Programme’s Assessment of the 2017 Budget

The Civil Society Platform on Ghana’s IMF Programme commends Government for committing to adhere to and maintain good economic governance principles of fiscal discipline, accountability and transparency in this year’s budget which is very much in line with the IMF Programme objectives. The Platform presents the following views on the 2017 budget:
Macroeconomic Targets
  • The Platform holds the view that government’s end of year macroeconomic targets; Budget deficit of 6.5 percent of GDP, Inflation rate of 11.2 percent, GDP growth rate of 6.3 percent and Gross Foreign Assets of at least 3 months of imports cover could be achieved, provided government commits to fiscal discipline, ensure a favourable economic environment, stable currency, reliable electricity supply and decline in the cost of credit, among others.
Enforcement of the PFMA, 2016 (Act 921)
  • Government’s strict enforcement and compliance with the sanctions regime of the new Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921) would effectively deal with the persistent structural defects in the management of the country’s public finances.
  • Given that Act 921 has useful provisions to ensure efficient and effective use of public resources; ranging from Assignment of Responsibilities, Budget Preparation and Management, Cash and Asset Management, Public Debt Management, Strengthening Parliamentary Oversight and a Sanctions regime for non-compliance.
  • It is welcoming that the maiden Annual Debt Management Report for 2016 has been submitted to Parliament in accordance with Section 72 of PFM Act 921.
  • Government should quicken the engagement process with stakeholders and come out with regulations to fully operationalize Act 921 even as the IMF programme has set a March 2017 timeline for the adoption of the regulations.
Establishment of the Fiscal Council
  • The government’s decision to establish a Fiscal Council is laudable given that this independent body would strengthen commitments to sustainable public finances through various functions aimed at setting up medium-term fiscal policy anchors to guide fiscal policy as well as monitor compliance and ensure credibility of budgetary forecasts.
  • Government should come up with timelines for the establishment of this Council and also engage extensively on the modalities.
Expenditure Management
  • The Platform believes the measures in the budget to contain and rationalize public expenditure if strictly adhered to could plug the many leakages in the system; including efforts to continue the payroll clean-up using the SSNIT database as filter, enforcement of provisions in the Public Procurement (Amendment) Act, 2016 (Act 914) with emphasis on sole sourcing should be embraced and supported by all to protect the public purse.
  • A critical tool for citizens to demand accountability from public officers on the use of public resources is the Right to Information law. The Platform urges government to ensure passage of this law before end of year to give real meaning to the government’s commitment to fight corruption.
  • The fight against corruption would also be given the needed boost should government implement the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (NACAP). In addition to the establishment of the Office of the Special Prosecutor and strict application of the provisions in the PFM and Public Procurement Amendment Acts, as well as the proposed amendments to, sections 3, 151 and 239-257 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29), which will make corruption a felony instead of a misdemeanor.
Pro-Poor and Social Development Spending
  • The Platform also welcomes the government’s intentions to safeguard pro-poor spending in the 2017 budget. Hence, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection should review and strengthen the social interventions (such as the School Feeding Programme, Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty, etc.) to ensure that funds allocated reach their intended beneficiaries, the poor and vulnerable across the country.
The Extended Credit Facility Arrangement with the IMF
  • The Civil Society Platform welcomes government’s decision to continue with the IMF programme. The current programme (2015-2017) aims to restore debt sustainability and macroeconomic stability to foster a return to high growth and job creation, while protecting social spending.
  •  The Structural Reform Benchmarks for 2016-2017 has seen some delays while others are due. These include; benchmarks on enhancing mobilization of non-tax revenues, human resource management, to strengthen control of the wage bill regarding the payroll of subvented agencies, adoption of regulations for the implementation of PFM Act 921 and also strengthen resilience and stability of the banking system.
  • Government and the IMF would have to engage on some of these issues to ensure the programme remains on track and programme objectives realized.