July Round-up: NPP, NDC Banter on Lecturers’ Research Allowance Settled; Misleading GDP and COVID-19 Figures Refuted

Facts in highlights:

  • The NDC did not cancel the Book and Research allowance
  • The NDC did not appoint the first female Foreign Minister of Ghana
  • The John Mahama-led government did record the lowest GDP growth for the whole of the fourth republic
  • Ghana’s COVID-19 “recovered” based on the WHO policy, misleading

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July was quite a busy month. The major opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) finally announced its long awaited running mate for the 2020 elections triggering a quick counter press conference by the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP). Conversations in the month centered around Ghana’s GDP Growth performance, free utility packages for Ghanaians, job recruitment, amidst viral hoses on COVID-19. In the process, mistruths, half-truths and outright lies got churned out.

The press conference by the governing NPP on July 6, 2020, shortly after the NDC’s official announcement of Prof. Opoku-Agyemang as its running mate, sparked a bout of heated conversation on the issue of “Book and research allowance for lecturers and researchers”. Having been a raging banter between the NPP and NDC since the 2016 elections, the NPP’s, claim has always been that the NDC cancelled the allowance “…Research and Book allowances of our hard working Lecturers were cancelled. Today we have reintroduced Book and research allowance and government has also put together a stand-alone bill to dedicate enough resources for the fund,”. But the NDC, always counter argues it never did.

So, whose claim is true, false, or merely exaggerated? The MFWA Fact-Check Ghana team interrogated the NPP’s claim on the cancellation of the book and research allowance and found it to be False. The team argued that “…the NDC government in their last year in power, 2016, paid the book and research allowance for the 2015/2016 academic year. This was announced by President John Dramani Mahama at the last session of the series of the 50th congregation ceremonies of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi on July 6, 2019 when he said government had released GH¢37 million to the Controller and Accountant General’s Department to pay the book and research allowance. The payment was further confirmed by the then President of UTAG, Dr. Harry Agbanu, that the various universities had picked up their checks from the National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE).

 Political parties often chide themselves over who is being more gender inclusive in its policies, programmes and appointments, particularly in election years. In the 2020 elections, the gender stakes have been upped with the appointment of the first female running mate by the major opposition party NDC. The party’s flagbearer, John Mahama, touting his party’s performance in putting women at the forefront of leadership claimed: “It was the NDC that presented Ghana’s first female Speaker of Parliament, the first female Foreign Minister…” Really? Did the NDC actually appoint the first female Foreign Minister of Ghana?

The Fact-Check Ghana team copiously examined facts available and found the claim to be Completely false. What the facts actually reveal is that, in 1979, after the overthrow of the General Kutu Acheampong, General Fred Akuffo, the new Head of State and Chairman of the Supreme Military Council, appointed new officers and commissioners (ministers) to replace the appointees of the Acheampong government. General Akuffo appointed Mrs. Gloria Amon Nikoi as the Commissioner (Minister) of the Foreign Affairs. She replaced the former Commissioner, Col. R.J.A. Felli. Mrs. Amon Nikoi had formerly served as the Deputy Chief of Mission to the United Nations and later worked as a senior official in  Ghana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

 In a television interview that discussed among other things, Ghana’s economic outlook and GDP growth performance under President Akufo-Addo’s and former President John Mahama, who is also the flagbearer of the opposition NDC, a leading member of the governing NPP, Gabby Otchere-Darko, claimed that the Mahama-led government recorded the lowest GDP growth for the whole of the fourth republic “…2016, that was what he [John Mahama] left behind. The prediction of the World bank was based on even a greater expectation in terms of GDP growth for 2016. 2016 was 3.4% GDP growth. And you know what that meant? It was the lowest GDP growth for the whole of the fourth republic. In fact, the last time we got 3.3% was in 1990.”

Again, the Fact-Check team subjected the claim to verification and found it to be False. The team sourced data from the World Bank, which showed that Ghana recorded GDP growth rates lower than 3.4% within the fourth republic (since 1993), contrary to Mr. Otchere Darko’s claim. In 1994, Ghana recorded a GDP growth rate of 3.3%. It argued that indeed, during John Mahama’s tenure, Ghana recorded GDP growth rates lower than the 3.4% of 2016. In 2014 and 2015, Ghana recorded GDP growth of 2.897% and 2.178% respectively. These were mainly due to the effects of the power crises and the fallen prices of gold and cocoa on the world market. Thus, the 3.3% GDP growth rate of 1994, makes Mr. Otchere Darko’s claim that “the last time we got 3.3% was in 1990” inaccurate.

On the COVID-19 front, a publication circulating on social media headlined: “JUST IN: Obuasi Government Hospital Closes Down as COVID-19 Cases Escalate Abnormally in The Hospital” stirred tensions among residents. The report said the hospital was notified not to operate from Monday, June 29, 2020, however, its management had decided to stop operating from Saturday June 27, 2020 until further notice. Fact-checkghana.com looked into the claim and found it to be Completely false, and a pure click baiting attempt. The team said the publication did not quote or cite any official source for its information; was scanty and lacked relevant details such as who issued the letter for the closure and who gave the directive for the actual closure of the facility on Saturday. A further probe by the team showed that the publication was a satirical piece and had no factual basis. The website that published it had stated at an obscure location of its homepage that it was a satirical website and its stories are fictitious.

July obviously came with more easing of COVID-19 restrictions. However, the announcement, in June, of more than 100% increase in Ghana’s COVID-19 recovered cases still raised eye brows and turned heads. While some viewed it as good news and a significant testimony to the country fight against the pandemic; others dismissed it as simply high fallouting and a miscalculation by the health authorities. The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in his address to Ghanaians, had said the calculations on recoveries was based on a new policy by the World Health Organisation (WHO):

“As at Saturday, 20th June, the total number of positives, cumulatively, stands at fourteen thousand, and one hundred and fifty-four (14,154), out of the two hundred and seventy thousand, three hundred (270,300) tests conducted. Under the revised policy, five thousand, nine hundred and twenty-five (5,925) persons have recovered and been discharged. This brings the total number of recoveries to ten thousand, four hundred and seventy-three (10,473). The number of active cases is, thus, three thousand, five hundred and ninety-six (3,596).” The President said the Ghana Health Service declared the persons as “recovered” based on the new “discharge/recovery” policy of the WHO.

But, after thorough interrogation and checks with several sources including World Health Organisation (WHO) publications, the Fact-Check Ghana team concluded that the President’s claim that the number of persons discharged after being declared “recovered” based on the WHO policy was misleading and problematic for ongoing efforts to combat the pandemic in Ghana. This is because significantly, the WHO’s new policy was not about “recovery.” It is their previous policy published on January 12, 2020 that was about recovery.

Meanwhile, to increase the reach of public education on immune boosters against COVID-19, the Fact-check team published the nine recommendations of herbal medicines for use as immune support and supportive treatment for the relief of some symptoms of COVID-19 as outlined by Ghana’s Centre for Scientific Research into Plant Medicine (CSRPM) at Mampong-Akuapem. The nine drugs that have been recommended by the Centre are: COA FS, Herbetine Herbal Powder; Herbetine Herbal Mixture; Viva Plus Powder; Ayisaa Opinto Herbal Tea; CD Capsules; Amen Depomix Powder; Amen Fevermix Capsules and Amen Chestico Capsules.

According to the Centre, “these products were recommended after they had been tested and approved by the Food and Drugs Authority in Ghana”.

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