GETFund Scholarships Discourses! …DI Boss Join Fray

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Richard Ahiagbah

As the discourses on the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) rages, the executive director of the Danquah Institute (DI), a pro-government think-tank,   has been caught with a position that portrays him as someone ready to join the bandwagon before looking for important information on issues.

Anybody could be pardoned for having a gibberish position on the GETFund Scholarships tirade, but not the chief executive of DI that prides itself on making first-class contributions to matters of national interests.

Mr. Richard Ahiagbah called out certain persons who were reported to have benefitted from the GETFund scholarships without knowing what exactly the issues were.

His position has exposed DI as a body jumping into the fray without having full facts on issues, but has only succeeded in hoodwinking people to think that it was infallible.

The Performance Audit Report of the GETFund Scholarships leaked by the Auditor General has sparked anger in certain quarters with those making comments not checking their facts well.

The anger was because some government officials were named as beneficiaries of the scholarships.

The work done on the GETFund Scholarships has raised legitimate concerns within certain circles, as curiously the Auditor General refused to leak as well responses it received from the GETFund Secretariat.

It is instructive to note that the GETFund Act made a provision under Subsection 2(2)(e) that allows the GETFund Secretariat to promote other educational activities.

The Act, however, did not specify if those activities should be done in Ghana alone or could be extended to overseas.

A simple check by the DI executive director would have informed him that GETFund Secretariat had the power to award scholarships to other persons apart from gifted but needy students.

The GETFund under Subsection 2(2)(e) of its Act has over the years sponsored people for capacity building and other activities of national needs.

Persons already in various endeavours, including lecturers, have benefitted from the GETFund Scholarships, something the DI executive director would have known if he had asked questions.

On the leaked report, even before the GETFund Secretariat would respond to queries that were supposed to have been communicated officially and privately, the Auditor General had leaked the queries in gross violation of ethics and procedure.

The GETFund Board of Trustees, through the secretariat, subsequently and comprehensively responded to all the queries to the Auditor General, as well as provided answers to questions posed by the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) and all the “investigations” and “indictments” went quiet thereafter.

Suddenly, the same audit queries, without any reference to the robust defence the Board had put up, were circulating in the media again.

The leak by the Auditor General has mischief and malice written all over it because of inaccuracies in the report.

Again, a former director of the GETFund, Mr. Sam Gariba, said the conclusion by the Auditor-General that they have breached its mandate and “illegally” funded foreign scholarships is scandalous.

He denied any wrongdoing in the manner in which he administered scholarships during his time in office.

A performance audit conducted by the Auditor General on the GETFund found out that over 2,000 scholarships were awarded to undeserving people, including politicians.

The report found out that the GETFund largely circumvented processes to award the scholarships and failed to institute systems to ensure scholarship monies were prudently used.

Mr. Gariba, who served between 2012 and 2016, said he only followed the existing procedure in awarding scholarships upon assumption of office.

“The request to make comment on the attached performance audit report by the auditor general did not come to me from the auditor general. It came to me from my successor to bring the audit to closure as standard practice. I did not invent anything; I saw and met a procedure and a structure in the administration of the scholarship.

 So I found it satisfied, picked it up and utilized in the administration of the scholarship. Indeed, that procedure was to award a scholarship to people who were studying outside the country.”

Mr. Gariba argued that claims in the report were scandalous, ridiculous and unfounded and he cannot fathom why he will be surcharged for something he did with “due diligence.”

“The Auditor-General is not the law. The Auditor-General has gone and made some scandalous claims that I administered this thing without the Board’s permission, I had two boards in my time. One was chaired by Professor Mills, he is dead. He knew about everything through the board. How can the Auditor–General reach such a scandalous conclusion, what is their stake? How do they know that we gave scholarships to the detriment of needy people? Just looking at a Member of Parliament, you just conclude that they are a millionaire and are not entitled to get funding from the GETFund. How can you reach such a conclusion? That is the kind of ridiculous conclusion the Auditor General wants me to reach,” he added.

DI Executive Director’s Take

It is “greed,” the executive director of pro-government think-tank Danquah Institute, Mr. Richard Ahiagbah, has said, in reference to the high-profile politicians who benefited from Ghana Education Trust Fund scholarships.

Speaking to Felicity Naana Nelson on Class91.3FM’s Straight Talk programme on Thursday, 27 February 2020 about what he made of the scandal and what could have fuelled the receipt of the scholarship award by the high-ranking public officials, Mr. Ahiagbah said: “Greed; that’s all I would say about it,” explaining: “Greed, to the extent that the motive for it is clear.”

“I’m not judging individuals by their standing but I’m judging individuals by their standing to say that if you have the means to do it, then don’t go for it; if you do that, it’s greed,” Mr. Ahiagbah emphasised.

Asked if the high-profile beneficiaries should be sanctioned, Mr. Ahiagbah said: “I think it’s above my paygrade to say so, but my feeling, honest feeling, is that at a point, where there are a thousand and one people that needed it – I’ve applied for GETfund before – the point of it is that if you hear, increasingly, the number of people who are in need of it, extremely in need, and are denied because they don’t have that influence that allows for it to go their way and I think that if it’s so much that the people with influence have crowded the space, so much that people who need it can’t get it, I think it’s not helpful.”

The high-calibre government appointees who benefited from the scholarship between 2014 and 2018, at the expense of the needy-but-brilliant for whom the GETfund was set up, according to an audit report by the Auditor-General, include Dr. Matthew Opoku-Prempeh, Education Minister; Sarah Adwoa Safo, Procurement Minister and Deputy Majority Leader in Parliament; Ignatius Baffour-Awuah, Employment and Labour Relations Minister and Mr. Prince Hamid Armah, Executive Secretary of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NaCCA).

Dr. Prempeh received US$11,200 and US$12,800 as tuition fee and living allowance, respectively, for a National and International Security programme at Harvard University.

Ms Safo also received US$17,004 as tuition fee and US$12,800 as a living allowance for a training programme at Harvard Kennedy School.

Mr. Baffour-Awuah, who studied BA, International Relations and Politics at the University of Portsmouth, UK, also received £11,800 as tuition fee and £12,710 as a living allowance.

Dr. Armah also received £33,000 and £38,400 as tuition fee and living expenses, respectively, for his Philosophy in Education programme at the University of Aberdeen.

Apart from Mr. Baffour-Awuah, who is yet to make any public comments on the matter, the other three have justified their receipt of the scholarship awards.

Civil society groups and Ghanaians have widely condemned the high-profile beneficiaries for competing with and crowding out the needy-but-gifted for whom the fund was set up.

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