A heated New Patriotic Party (NPP) and National Democratic Congress (NDC) blame game has ensued once again following the Auditor-General’s report that some high-ranking public officials, including politicians, lecturers and journalists, were given scholarships to study abroad by the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund).
The report, which has been in the media domain since Sunday even before Parliament deliberates on the issues as mandated by law, looked into the ‘Performance Audit Report of the Auditor-General on the administration of scholarships by GETFund’ between 2012 and 2018.
Per the Auditor-General’s report, GETFund directly awarded scholarships to about 2,200 beneficiaries to study abroad at a cost of ¢425,698,973 to the taxpayer.
Interestingly, at a time the NPP and NDC are at each other’s throat over the issue, it appears there were individuals who were ‘swerved’ by the GETFund officials even though the audit report captures them as having benefitted from the state-funded scholarships.
For instance, a lady who goes by the name Hajia Ramana Shareef, believed to be a journalist and a communication strategist, whose name was captured in the audit report as being a beneficiary of GETFund scholarship, denied she ever got the grant.
Reacting to the report, she posted on Facebook that she applied and was awarded but never received the funding so she had to abandon the course she wanted to pursue.
“So this country called Ghana, why at all are we so wicked to ourselves. You put my name on a list of scholarship beneficiaries, which you never paid! So who took the money?” she queried on Facebook.
According to the report, she received a total amount of €22,730 to pursue a Master’s of Science degree in Communication for Innovation and Development at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom (UK).
“I got admission to read in 2013 to study MSc Communication for Innovation and Development which was to be a starting point for my PhD dream. When I applied for a scholarship at GETFund, I got an award letter but the fees were never paid. I had to defer two times and finally cancelled it because of the non-payment of the fees which made it difficult to get a student visa to the UK,” she narrated.
Already, there has been a political twist to the whole saga after elements of the opposition NDC claimed that some current government appointees including Education Minister Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Procurement Minister, Sarah Adwoa Safo; Executive Secretary of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NaCCA), Dr. Prince Hamidu Armah, as well as Minister of Employment Ignatius Baffour-Awuah, were given scholarships when the NPP assumed office.
The Education Minister, per the report, is listed as a Harvard University student sponsored for the programme, National and International Security, and received US$11,200 and US$12,800 as tuition fees and living allowance respectively.
The Procurement Minister and Deputy Majority Leader in Parliament is also listed as a Harvard Kennedy School student who received US$17,004 as tuition fees and US$12,800 as a living allowance.
The NaCCA boss, the report stated, for his Philosophy in Education programme at University of Aberdeen, received £33,000 and £38,400 as tuition fees and living expenses respectively.
The Employment Minister, the report stated, as a student of University of Portsmouth, UK, studying BA International Relations and Politics, enjoyed £11,800 as tuition fees and £12,710 as living expenses.
Reacting to the statement, GETFund admitted that the officials were awarded scholarships but said it was not under the current NPP administration as being pushed by the opposition.
It also insisted that the mandate of GETFund is not limited to serving needy but brilliant students in line with the GETFund Act 2000, explaining that “the fund may, per its mandate, also provide support for other educational activities and programmes to serve strategic national interests.”
Education Minister Explains
The Education Minister has already debunked NDC claims that he got his GETFund award when the NPP assumed office, saying he was a beneficiary in 2014 when the NDC was the party in government.
He said he had participated in a three-week certificate programme at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in the United States, with support from GETFund, adding “I have not received any form of sponsorship for any programme or course of study from GETFund or the Scholarship Secretariat since becoming a minister.”
The NaCCA boss also clarified in a statement that his studies at the Aberdeen University in Scotland predated his entry into public service “by at least three years”.
He said he applied for and won the scholarship in 2012 to study for a doctorate in Mathematics Education at the University of Aberdeen in the UK in 2012.
Some lecturers in various public universities who are perceived to be NDC members all ‘enjoyed’ from GETFund scholarships to pursue doctorate degrees outside Ghana.
Prof. John Gatsi of the University of Cape Coast, who is a darling of the NDC on economic issues, and Justice Srem-Sai of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) were captured in the report as beneficiaries.
Professor John Gatsi, according to the report, secured the scholarship to pursue a PhD in Finance (through Distance Learning) at the SMC University in Switzerland, while Justice Srem-Sai, a Law Lecturer at GIMPA, pursued a PhD in Law at the University of Leeds in the UK through GETFund.
In spite of GETFund’s explanation that it has the mandate to do what it did, a law lecturer, Prof. Kwaku Asare aka Kwaku Azaa, said on social media that it was “inefficient for the FUND to duplicate the role of the Scholarship Secretariat when it comes to awarding local scholarships,” insisting that “GETFUND is a fund not a Scholarship Secretariat.”
He said “GETFUND acts ultra vires its powers when it gets into the business of retailing scholarships. So too will it be acting ultra vires if it gets into the business of building lecture halls or giving loans to students,” adding “the trustees, being fiduciaries, breach their fiduciary duty when they frolic into performing unauthorized roles.”