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Opinions of Friday, 22 November 2013

Columnist: Mends, Ebow

Want to be a millionaire in Ghana?

...Try District Director of Education

Hyperbolic? Over the Top? Exaggeration? May be; You be the Judge.

By Ebo Mends

A few weeks ago, November 5th 2013 to be precise, Ghanaweb published two reports sourced to the Daily Guide with headlines: Education Director Blows GHc 100,000 Teachers’ Money and Ghc 8.5 billion GES case adjourned. I am sure the second figure of 8.5 billion was quoted in old Ghana Cedis. On Saturday November 9, 2013, Ghanaweb reported another of such stories captioned “Payslips for Sale” sourced to The Mirror. This report had nothing to do with the Education Service, but the spirit and essence of the reporting is the same.

The first two reports caught my not so sleepy eyes because for the past several months, I have heard from former colleagues and family members in Ghana about this scheme that SOME District Directors of Education (DDEs) have hatched, obviously in collaboration with others, to defraud the Government of Ghana of hefty amounts of money. The same scheme also deprives the secondary victims, newly “hired” teachers money that technically they may be entitled to but in reality, they (the teachers) are not supposed to get.

This is what I am told is the process currently operating in most districts in Ghana. These descriptions came from two very reliable sources, very close to what is happening

Potential teachers seeking employment with the Ghana Education Service (GES) submit applications with supporting documents – Applications, Academic Certificates, birth certificates and testimonials – all in 4 copies each, to the offices of the DDE. The applicants are called for interview, after a review of such documents, appearing before a panel comprising, in some instances, of 2 Education Supervisors from the DDE’s office, The Human Resource Manager and a Posting and Transfers Officer. At the interview, among other things, original educational/academic certificates are inspected to ascertain their authenticity. I must state here that my information is that at times, these interviews are mere formalities, just going through the motions, satisfying a procedural and legal requirement – to go offer applicants the opportunity to be assessed on their merits. I am told, most times, the applicants to be hired are already known since behind the scenes actions had made sure of that.

“Successful candidates” are subsequently called to the District Education Office to fill out New Entrants forms and an IPPD form, ostensibly for payment information including Bank Account details for onward transmission to the Controller and Accountant General Department (CAGD) in Accra. At this stage, it all but certain that the applicants have been offered a job. However, at the time of filling out the IPPD form, the exact posting of the applicant may not be known but it is safe to assume that there is a hint as to where the newly hired teacher would be going. Certainty is established when the appointment letter finally arrives. Another thing; Districts prefer that banks through which the future salaries should be are normally local – that is, banks located mainly in the district, preferably the district capital.

The waiting period between the time that an IPPD form is completed and submitted to the CAGD on behalf of an applicant and the time that the processing of all the necessary documentation to finalize an applicant’s receiving a formal appointment letter could be anytime between 6 – 12 months. It takes another 6 – 12 months for these teachers to start receiving salaries. The first payment of salaries comes with the backdated salaries (for these teachers) starting from the date on the formal appointment letters.

Folks, this is where things get interesting. The teachers are not obliged to start teaching from the date of their appointments, in fact, they are not told by the DDEs to assume their teaching posts. The reason being that, both the newly hired teacher and the DDEs know from experience that, the teachers would not receive any payment for another 10 months or 12 months (1 year). According to those I spoke to in Ghana, the DDEs don’t bother to insist that the teachers begin teaching from their appointed dates because since the teachers would not be attending classes regularly, if at all, and the said schools would have teachers only in name. These newly appointed teachers don’t also bother to report at their posts because they are certain they would not be paid for a long time. This objective situation is what breeds the corrupt practice of embezzling public funds. Remember when the payment of salaries start, they are accompanied by 10 -12 months or so of “back pay”. For SSS graduates, the monthly salary is around 500 Gh C. For Diploma of Education holders (certificate awarded by the University of Education, Winneba through its sandwich programmes), the salary is between 900 and 1200 Gh C. Just do the calculation, a 10 or 12 month arrears, is quite a hefty sum for either category of the pay scale.

When the salary arrears arrive, the teachers are now given their formal appointment letters but not until they are asked to go and withdraw the money and bring it to the DDE’s office. The district officers including the IPPD coordinators and the banks and others are all into this. However the main driver of this process is the DDE because he/she has the appointment letters. When the money is brought to the DDE’s office, all involved have no legal right to it. The teacher has not taught a single day for the period that the arrears cover, and both the DDE and the new teacher know this. Whatever money the new teacher gets or is given by the district education and other officials, is a bonus. What I am told happens is that the DDEs take the lion’s share – anything between 70% and 90% of the arrears and hands over the rest to the teacher. Sometimes the DDE tells the teacher he/she is returning the rest of the money into government coffers, which is as believable as a vampire hating blood or liking garlic. Both the DDE and the teacher have fleeced the government and committed a crime in the process, but who cares or dares to report them?

So many questions beg for answers:

• In this computer age, why would process of inputting (into) the CAGD system, details of hired personnel of any kind take between 6 to 12 months to complete?

• Why does it take so much time to generate appointment letters to prospective candidates for teaching jobs?

• While these lengthy processes are taking place, what happens to our kids in the schools without teachers?

• Do Regional Directors of Education know about these delays and the corruptions that they breed?

• Do Deputy Ministers of Education in charge of basic education know what is going on their sector of responsibility?

• Has the Minister of Education heard about these delays and if so what has he/she done about them (I know the current sector Minister is Prof. Nana Jane Opoku-Agyeman – former VC of UCC)

• Is it not surprising that there are BNI district offices through-out the country but these very obvious corrupt practices that are a threat to our future security are going on almost everywhere?

• How long has this been going on?

I have deliberately refrained from accusing all DDEs of this apparent crimes/corruption. I intentionally used the word SOME not to paint all DDEs with the same brush; it would not be fair to do that. The two articles I have referenced mentioned other culprits because to pull this scheme off, other districts officials in other departments would have to be involved as they are as accomplices.

What is sickening is the fact that this rather unhealthy and terrible situation is being allowed to continue without serious consequences for those involved, at least until recently. I can assure readers that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

When the District Assemblies concept was muted and implemented years ago, its main selling point was to decentralize decision making to the local levels, in the districts, with the understanding that those close to the scene would better understand the felt needs of our people. This responsibility brought with it important decision making powers, and flowing from that the need for public servants to be upright in the exercise of such powers. No one, certainly not this writer, is calling for such people to be angels. However, this complete abuse of power and lack of trust do not augur well for the development of our nation.

I am sure there are such practices all over our public service. Until we check these abuses and corrupt practices, it will take us a very long time to achieve any meaningful development in our dear country.

For those who think this is only an NDC only or NPP problem, and will therefore be looking to blame one political party or other for this state of affairs, I say to you, look in the mirror and tell me who/what you see. If you see a Ghanaian, then that is your answer. We are our own worst enemies.