Audit of the e-Government Platform Project, we commenced the construction of 20 enhanced Community Information Centres in all the ten regions. The centres are located in Keta, Battor, Techiman Krobo, Twifo Atti-Morkwa, Bodi, Effiduase, Glefe, Pantang Presby Cluster of Schools, Drobonso, Asuogya-man, Lambussie, Nandom, Welembelle, Sagnarigu, Pusiga, Nalerigu, Kpetoe, Talensi, Ofoase, Lassia-Tuolu. All these have received Community Information Centres. Ten (10) of these have been completed and ready for inauguration.
Transparent and Accountable Governance
Mr Speaker, good governance, transparency and the fight against corruption form an integral part of the agenda for transformation. The country's progress in this area has been commendable. Ghana ranks high in all major governance indicators -- human rights, transparency and rule of law assessments. We have a vibrant civil society and media, which operate in a very free and open environment.
Mr Speaker, I have remained resolute to the key principles of good governance as enshrined in our Constitution. This is because it is the right thing to do. Indeed, citizens involvement and participation in the development process are important ingredients in realising our development aspirations.
I will continue to engage our people through regular interaction with our chiefs, workers, religious leaders, farmers, students, the business community, market women and indeed, all segments of the populace. In the last year, our engagement and interaction with the citizenry were enhanced with the introduction of the Government for the People (G4P) forum.
The G4P forum provided a good platform for Government to explain the benefits of our policies and offer the people an opportunity to give feedback. We must make every effort to sustain the achievements we have made over the years in promoting good governance, enhancing accountability and combating corruption.
Decentralisation and Local Governance
Mr Speaker, Ghana has made significant progress towards achieving full decentralisation, despite the challenges with fiscal decentralisation. Last year, the internally generated funds of Metro- politan, Municipal and Distr ict Assemblies (MMDAs) increased as a result of the different programmes in place to achieve full fiscal decentralisation.
My resolve to address the sanitation challenge facing us has led to the creation of a comprehensive environmental sanitation programme, which has three components -- National Sanitation Day, Composting and Recycling and Waste Separation. So far, we have successfully marked a number of National Sanitation Days aimed at mobilising all of us to clean our environments.
Currently, the National Service Scheme is supporting the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development by deploying trained national service personnel to gather data on household disposal to serve as a basis for distribution of waste bins to households that currently have none.
The primary objective of these collaborative efforts is to arrest waste at the point of production and minimise our current environmental sanitation challenges. Ultimately, the national sanitation day initiative must be augmented and supported with behavioural change,
proper waste disposal and waste management systems. Let us all be committed to this.
District Assembly Elections
Mr Speaker, Distr ict Assembly elections are scheduled to take place next week. It is yet again an illustration of how far we have come as a nation in our quest to build an open, democratic, tolerant and responsible society.
Permit me to urge all Ghanaians to return to their respective polling stations to exercise their rights to choose the people they want to represent them in the local governance decision-making process.
Mr Speaker, this is the final major election to be undertaken by the Electoral Commission under the leadership of Dr Kwadwo Afari Djan before he attains his statutory retirement age.
I understand Dr Afari Djan is in the House. My respects.
Mr Speaker, may I take this opportunity to congratulate the Parliament of the Republic of Ghana for the manner you went about your work in the past year and for your collaboration with the Executive in exercising oversight.
The Chamber has been reconfigured and equipped with modern communication gadgets to adequately accommodate all 275 MPs for the efficient and effective discharge of your legislative functions.
I am sure myself and Nana would have been surprised to see how elegant your Chamber is.
I am also informed that Hon Members would finally be able to be accommodated in their offices with the near completion of the Job 600 project.
Mr Speaker, I understand that other welfare matters are outstanding and I assure you that we will work, in collaboration with Parliament, to resolve those issues.
Mr Speaker, we will this year start work on the e-Parliament component of the US$97 million e-Transform Ghana Project. This will allow for a paperless flow of information and will enhance the operations and activities of the House.
I am particularly excited about the prospects of an improved citizen participation in governance under the e- Parliament Project. Nobody should say they were born before computers; you are all going to be involved.
I am sounding a note to my Friend Collins Dauda. We have e-Cabinet project too and I know the day that e-Cabinet works will be the day Hon Collins Dauda goes on his Tablet and works in Cabinet.
Mr Speaker, may I also commend you in particular and Hon Members for working to review the Standing Orders-- I was on the Standing Orders Committee
of the House -- and I am surprised it is taking this long -- This will improve and ensure increased efficiency of the House in performing your legislative functions. You are responding to changing trends of legislative practice and procedures.
Enhancing Rule of Law and Justice
Mr Speaker, we remain committed to a free and independent Judiciary and we continue to support measures aimed at ensuring efficient and speedy adminis- tration of justice.
The new court complex that will house 34 courts initiated by our late President Prof. John Atta Mills is nearing-- I am informed it is nearing completion.
Government has also provided three video-conferencing and tele-presence equipment to enable the Judicial Service conduct face-to-face interaction with Judges in Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi.
In the next 18 months, we will disburse US$5 million for the e-Justice project with the sole objective of assisting in the speedy and efficient delivery of justice. This project also covers the Attorney- General's Department.
Mr Speaker, corruption is a canker that continues to plague our society.
Former President Kufuor once said: “Government pretends to pay workers, and workers pretend to work.” This statement was made at a time public sector pay was abysmal.
It is obvious at the time that many public sector workers made up their paltry incomes by taking illegal “tips' and “charges” from members of the public.
With the significant improvement in salaries occasioned by the Single Spine Salary Scheme (SSSS), there can be no justification for the continued bribes demanded from members of the public before they access essential social services, or the wanton misappropriation and theft of public resources that we see.
In every facet of life, we encounter corruption -- at the ports when business people under declare the value of goods to avoid paying the right duties to the State, drivers who drain fuel from Government vehicles, some officers take bribes from motorists for traffic infractions and I could go on with several other examples.
Yet, at every level, there are responsible officers who are to exercise oversight of the activities in the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies. If these were our private businesses, we surely would not accept the conduct that we see exhibited in the public service and that are continuously exposed in the reports of the Auditor-General on an annual basis.
Ghana is bleeding from all of these acts of mismanagement and malfeasance and leadership at all levels should take responsibility for their areas of oversight and I will make sure that we do so. We must all support the fight against corruption.
Recently, there are reports of a spate of suspicious fires that have gutted records or warehouses that were subjected to audit or about to be subjected to audit. Our directors, inspectors and all heads of institution must sit up.
Mr Speaker, Parliament, in July, 2014, adopted the National Anti-corruption Action Plan (NACAP) and Strategy. It is the overarching plan to combat corruption in the country and will be implemented.
In December, 2014, I established a high level implementation committee to be responsible for the implementation of NACAP. This high level committee will provide strategic policy guidance from the highest level of government to MDAs and other implementing partners as well as assist CHRAJ and the NDPC in monitoring the implementation of NACAP.
The process of investigation and prosecution of allegations of corruption, economic crimes and mismanagement by the EOCO and the AG's Department have been subjected to delay and have been unable to fulfil their mandate.
The institutions of State that are responsible for the task of investigating corruption must be strengthened legally and institutionally. I would like to invite Parliament to review the legal and institutional framework that supports the work of the investigative and prosecutorial agencies in order that they can live up to the expectations of an expectant and exasperated nation.
I have, as President, made strenuous efforts to expose, investigate and deal with matters of corruption within the constraints of the law. Our efforts at exposing corruption may result in an erroneous belief that the practice has become more pervasive now than before when in fact, the reverse is the case as evidenced in our performance in recent Transparency International (TI) Reports.
Let me take the opportunity again to urge all anti-graft institutions to promptly investigate allegations and take swift actions to protect the public purse and public resources. As President, I will continue to lend every support to these important institutions to ensure that we win total victory in the war against
malfeasance. As we play our part, I urge other arms of Government to support me to make corruption a high-risk activity.
Mr Speaker, let us make our institutions work and let us work together to create the framework to deal with this menace swiftly, impartially and fairly.
While we expose and fight corruption, we should also tighten systems to ensure that existing loopholes are sealed to avoid a recurrence. One major way to achieve this is with the use of information technology. There has been strong resistance in many instances in our roll out of technology in MDAs because many prefer the laxness of the manual system. We will invest and speed up technology uptake in all facets of national life.
Mr Speaker, last year, I authorised the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) to conduct investigations into allegations of fraud in the National Service Scheme's payroll. The investigations revealed an organised system of misappropriating government funds through the insertion of ghost service personnel. Investigators have so far retrieved over GH¢20 million.
In addition, some officials of the Service are currently before court. The NSS, following the payroll scandal, also put in a new electronic payroll for all national service personnel enabling their payments to be loaded on their e-Zwich cards. This will help eliminate ghosts in the NSS pay- roll. Government has through this already saved an estimated GH¢26.5 million.
Prosecution of public officials involved in the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Authority (GYEEDA) is ongoing and moneys are being retrieved from the service providers. A new Youth Employment Agency (YEA) to replace GYEEDA has just been approved by Parliament.