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Opinions of Monday, 2 March 2020

Columnist: Benjamin Essuman

Shame on you, Dr Assibey Yeboah

Dr Mark Assibey Yeboah Dr Mark Assibey Yeboah

In the week where Ghanaians are expressing shock and anger over stinking details of how their taxes sent to GETFund Secretariat have been recklessly managed, the NPP MP for New Juabeng South and Chairman of the Finance Committee of Parliament, Dr Mark Assibey-Yeboah, has gained national attention for rebuffing the public outcry that the funds have unjustifiably been expended on the rich and affluent in society at the expense of the poor.

To him, since both the rich and poor are Ghanaians, they both have the right to apply and be given government scholarships, and that it is unfair for the GETfund scholarship to be enjoyed by only the needy in society, while politicians and their children are excluded. He even adds that since the rich pay more taxes than the poor, the rich and their children deserve more government scholarships than the poor.

These provocative and annoying comments are captured by Class FM which reports that the New Juabeng South MP quizzed their journalist: “So, you’re saying that I’m a politician, scholarships are being given to people to go and study abroad [but] because I’m a politician, my kids should not benefit from same? Is that what you are saying?”

“It’s the same bogus argument that led us to having free education in the northern part of the country, which, now the NPP says, ‘no’; everybody has to benefit from it; there are a lot of rich people in Ghana whose kids are benefiting from the free SHS, go and throw them out of the school and tell them their parents can afford it. Do you know the amount of taxes that they pay?” he defended his position.

This senseless, insensitive and insulting commentary on the matter, flies in the face of Act 581 which established the GETFund as a tax component of VAT and which spelt out the mandate of the GETFund Secretariat as a social intervention measure for Ghanaians.

When the Class FM journalist pointed out to him that high-profile politicians are in a better position, relative to the poor, as far as funding their education is concerned, Dr Assibey-Yeboah retorted: “So, should the scholarships be the preserve of some Ghanaians? Are they more Ghanaian than me? Do they pay more taxes than me?”

“This whole scholarship thing, do you know that free SHS is also a scholarship? Yes, that’s scholarship; so, if you legislate that it should go to only the needy, so, you have somebody who claims they are needy, they are not paying taxes and then they should access this, but I pay all manner of taxes, I shouldn’t be able to access it.

“If you are cancelling it altogether, so be it; GETfund will only be for infrastructure, no scholarship, fair game, OK”, he argued.

The above statements attributed to Dr Assibey Yeboah flies in the face of Regulation 2(b) of the GETFund Act 581, under the heading: OBJECT OF THE FUND. The law, passed by the same Parliament that he Dr Osei Assibey is proud of, speaks unequivocally about GETFund being a social intervention policy measure that must reach out to assist the poor and needy students in Ghana. Act 581 Regulation 2(b) states the Fund is: "To provide supplementary funding to the scholarship secretariat for the grant of scholarships to NEEDY but brilliant students for studies in second cycle and accredited tertiary institutions IN GHANA."

The poor and needy in Ghana didn't write the GETFund law. The poor and needy students in Ghana didn't have the means to sit in Parliament to make the law for themselves. It was Dr Osei Assibey's Parliament that wrote this law in August 2020 and insisted that the funds should be used to assist the POOR but brilliant students.

It is therefore unconscionable and irresponsible on his part, to suggest that the GETFund law favors the poor and needy Ghanaian children, so it is proper to abuse the law in order to favor the rich and affluent in the Ghanaian society.

To even introduce the argument that the rich pay more taxes than the poor so the rich deserves government scholarship more, reveals that Dr Mark Osei Assibey doesn't know why and how the GETFund concept was created, and the means of collecting the GETFund tax. It is such a shame that the Chairman of the Finance Committee is exhibiting such crass ignorance of this particular fund law.

For his education and the information of all national politicians who think like Dr Assibey Yeboah, GETFund as a tax and a secretariat, was an idea promulgated by the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) following concerns over the lack of investments into education in the country and the high cost of tertiary education in Ghana. NUGS maintained that education is a right and not a privilege. The then NUGS President, Haruna Iddrisu, who is today's Minority Leader, insisted that education as a right is a must for all Ghanaians, and that it cannot be a privilege for only those who can afford to pay. The inability to afford school fees, was therefore to be cured by the creation of the GETFund, so that those who are not able to afford education can be given government scholarships, so they can enjoy the same education just as the kids of politicians and the affluent do.

It is the purpose of the GETFund Act that when brilliant but needy students get educated they can apply their knowledge to help themselves and their families so that they can also contribute substantially to the consolidated fund through taxes and productivity. Dr Assibey Yeboah must get this.

Again, by understanding that, the GETFund tax is an indirect tax that individuals and entities pay upon purchase of specific goods and services, it is untrue, unwise and makes no sense to contend that the rich pay more GETFund taxes than the poor. We pay as we consume. The more you consume goods the more you pay. GETFund is not a direct tax on income. Dr Assibey Yeboah clearly needs education on this so as to cure his ignorance.

Per the above, Dr Osei Assibey has expressed total ignorance of the GETFund Act and it's operations, has expressed insensitivity towards the need to help the poor and needy amongst us, and therefore He is unfit to continue as a Member of Parliament and more so as the Chairman of the Finance Committee of Parliament.

Consequently, He must apologise for his ill thought through commentary and ask for forgiveness. If he feels so pompous to admit his failings, then he must resign from Parliament with immediate effect, for having spoken against the law made by Parliament to help the poor in our society.

Failing to exercise any of the above two options, the people of New Juabeng South should deliver justice by rejecting Dr Assibey Yeboah as their representative in Parliament. An MP who goes to Parliament to seek his personal welfare and that of his children, by taking advantage of government scholarships instead of fighting for his constituents, is not worth the office of the people's representative.

Shame on you, Dr Assibey Yeboah.