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Opinions of Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Columnist: Kwasi Ansu-Kyeremeh

Value for heritage money

By: Kwasi Ansu-Kyeremeh

‘Value for money’ featured prominently in a presidential inaugural speech.

On hearing heritage fund could rescue education from underfunding, my initial thinking was value for money.

Education is about guaranteeing the future of a people and their nation. Heritage is what is meant for the future. So futures meet in a coincidence of relevance and purpose.

Heritage Fund is oil money. In Tunisia, oil money guarantees citizens free education from kindergarten to university.

Rather than deploy to drive development, our oil money has so far been wasted; diverted as judgment debt payments into congresspeople’s private pockets. So much has been borrowed against it making oil more a curse than a blessing.

Kwame Nkrumah’s massive investment of cocoa money in education is what has sustained the motherland to this point.

We can positively develop through oil money for free education with a radical accountability system. With the oil money as a financial fillip, implementation would require monitoring structures that guarantee value for money. It’s a true future of hope with job creation complement that would expand employment opportunity for the educated.

Privileged to have led two different national education assessment groups, my view is that to realise the set objective of a future of educated (not just schooled) compatriots, the implementation of the heritage funded strategy must recognise the built-in wastage. There should be a clear and independently verifiable structure to deal with the wastage drainpipes before dipping into the fund to support education.

First, there must be reliable and valid educational statistics. There is a serious over-declaration of figures when end beneficiaries are asked to provide enrolment and staff at post numbers. There is over-declaration when money is to be paid out and under-declaration when money is to be paid in.

Schools won’t pay in any monies (‘by free SHS there would be no admission fees, no library fees, no science centre fees, no computer lab fees, no examination fees and no utility fees’). They will only receive government payouts.

One can expect an explosion in over-invoiced request statistics.

The spectre of ghost names on payroll and bloated enrolment figures for those being school fed (from kindergarten to SHS3) can be expected. Capitation grant payments and supply of books/other inputs is equally susceptible to negative manipulation. They are easy chop-chop avenues.

Tangible and clear check mechanisms for these most probable abuses must be demonstrated before using the heritage fund to finance schooling.

Teacher absenteeism is causing heavy losses in contact hours.

A community empowerment system, requiring revamping School Management Committees (SMCs) and Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) would be helpful.

The current circuit supervisor system appears to be functioning way below capacity.

In-site visits, too few and far in-between to be effective, need a mobile phone feedback system (with penalties for abuse), to be developed for SMC/PTA-circuit supervisor constant consultation.

Teachers, too often blame children for teacher lapses. Children perform badly because they don’t learn. Teachers must understand and appreciate that a basic responsibility of a teacher is finding ways to encourage the taught to study, especially read, successfully.

Someone, some minister or president, must boldly examine means testing for optimum funding. Free SHS for the needy would have produced the best value for money system.

The easy way of blanket implementation exacerbates abuse and cheating.

A thorough and rigorously pursued means testing should reduce costs and optimise effective fund use. One is assuming that there will be no scholarship, including private awards, if everyone is on public sponsorship.

?sonomma have their own chop choppers (many against Nana Addo’s anti-chop chop stance). Congresspeople always found ways of chop chopping the oil money.

The hope of all who crave for educational funding support is that ?sonomma will not find ways to freely chop chop the heritage fund for free education.

‘Don’t touch the money meant to give the young a future to prepare the young for the future’ makes not much sense.

If compatriots said no to congresspeople accessing the heritage fund, it is because they squander chop-chopped GH¢750 million dollars dubiously as judgment debt payments and another GH¢120 million on a non-verifiable capacity building.

?sonomma should not be discouraged from using part of the fund WISELY (strictly on value for money basis) to build a future for the young.

They shouldn’t be prevented from progressively constructing a future with the future fund for as long as the spending is transparent, value for money and chop-chop-free.

The ‘against’ must be heartened the government Cashman says no heritage fund for free education yet.

That notwithstanding, anti-corruption crusaders must please deploy their anti-chopping arsenal to pre-empt chop chopping to wrench value for money.

The motherland does not wish to be penny wise and pound foolish; that is, save on heritage fund to support a future motherland of illiterates.