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Opinions of Monday, 20 August 2018

Columnist: Sylvester Forson

Secret letter to the President

The Free SHS policy is one of President Akufo-Addo's flagship project The Free SHS policy is one of President Akufo-Addo's flagship project

Dear Mr. President, I pray this letter meets you in the best of health. On the 7th of January, 2017 when you took oath of office as President of our great country Ghana, you encouraged all of us (in your maiden speech) to be citizens and not spectators, in other words, you threw an invitation to all Ghanaians to contribute in any way we can, towards the development of mother Ghana.

True to your word, as President of Ghana, you have remarkably implemented the Free SHS policy which was a key campaign promise you made to Ghanaians and for which many electorates voted for. This policy gives equal opportunity to all children of Ghanaian descent who qualify for Senior High School (SHS) education to study in any government SHS for free as long as they gain admission, irrespective of their background whether rich or poor.

Recent deliberations in the media are however indicating that there may be some reviews to the Free SHS policy, which will make it exclude children whose parents have capacity to pay for their wards, so that parents who have difficulty supporting their wards with SHS fees and school expenses will be the ones whose children benefit from the Free SHS policy.

It is quite understandable that every new venture or course of action goes through teething encounters, and as time goes on there may be the need to review and fine-tune novel policies (where necessary) to ensure that objectives are met and sustainability is assured, however, Mr. President, you and I know how these things eventually end-up in Ghana. Parents who can comfortably support their wards will sooner or later be the ones enjoying the Free SHS, while those who genuinely need the facility will be forced to pay, in the long run defeating the ultimate objective of Free SHS.

The financial burden of Free SHS implementation is enough reason for government to think outside the box and be willing to embark on unusual schemes that will enable it to marshal enough funds from possible avenues to keep the policy running as a downward review of this policy may be ethically thought-provoking.

As a keen follower of media analysis and current affairs, I have been extremely worried over revelations of the wanton corruptive acts within key sectors of the economy reported by some media personalities notable among them; Captain Smart of Fabewoso (Adom FM) fame.

In February 2017, I sent a text message into one of the Fabewoso programs, which I would want to humbly draw your attention to. My message was that “Financial/Accounting departments of government agencies which collect monies from persons and corporations on behalf of the government should be manned by accountants or financially trained soldiers who will report directly to Ministers or CEOs of the respective agencies”. Their mandate will be to ensure that all monies collected on government’s behalf actually get to their true destinations.

This suggestion is not preemptive of any wrongdoing of a particular government institution or agency but to ensure that the culture of self-restraint is imbibed in key sensitive areas where government depends on to fund good policies like Free SHS.

Your Excellency, the very first criticism may be that you are involving the military in civilian affairs however Mr. President, you and I know that the levels of ‘administrative efficiency’ at Burma camp (Army Head Quarters) and other military installations would be beneficial to your government and the whole of Ghana if replicated in some if not all civilian units and sections that are mandated to generate monies through government services to the public.

We all know that due to the sensitivity of their operations, the Ghanaian soldier goes beyond the civil law and becomes a subject of martial law, which prescribes stiffer sentences for offences and inspires an appreciable level of discipline. Whiles, they are being adequately trained to guard our borders and equipped for foreign missions, it is imperative that we harness their rare expertise in tackling the economic leakages within the various government sectors that offer services to the public in exchange for monies.

The deployed soldiers should work hand in hand with your appointed Ministers or CEOs because a lot of the times, things may be happening beyond the purview of your appointees, in other circumstances, your appointees may be aware of the seepages but ignore for fear of being victimized or sabotaged.
Your Excellency, like many other Ghanaians, I am of the strong conviction that If leakages within money generating sectors are blocked effectively through pragmatic methods (although uncommon) Ghana may not need to go borrowing to finance good policies like Free SHS.

I unreservedly have no doubts about your passion to see every Ghanaian child benefiting from the Free SHS policy as long as they qualify and gain admission and I wish you well.