The Institute for Liberty & Policy Innovation (ILAPI) has petitioned the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) to probe the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) for “inappropriate administrative actions and decisions, wastage of public funds, and causing of financial loss to the state” in relation to the award of scholarships in the country.
This follows a performance audit report of the Auditor-General which revealed that politicians benefitted from GETFund scholarships meant for brilliant-but-needy students.
The Executive Secretary of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NaCCA), Dr Prince Armah; Education Minister Dr Mathew Opoku Prempeh and the Minister of State in charge of Public Procurement, Sarah Adwoa Safo were all beneficiaries of GETFund scholarships.
ILAPI, in its petition signed by Executive Director Peter Bismark Kwofie, said: “We believe that the decision to award scholarships to needy students to study in Ghana and abroad have suffered several symptoms of misappropriation and hijacking of awards and funding of scholarships with most notably, the illegal funding of scholarships and transactions of monies – manifests: a) financial loss to the state; b) unsound administration of scholarship funds; and c) awarding of funds to non-existing beneficiaries or ghost names”.
ILAPI said it has confidence in EOCO’s capacity to investigate economic and financial transactions and apply just remedies to “recoup and rectify the financial improprieties that have occurred and, thereby, save this country the huge amounts of money involved once you have satisfied yourself of the propriety of doing so after uncovering the salient facts in respect of these matters. We thank you and your team for your time.”
Read ILAPI’s full petition below:
Firstly Section 2(2b) of the GETFUND Act 2000 (Act 581 emphasises vividly that: a supplementary funding is provided to the Scholarship Secretariat for the grant of scholarships to gifted but needy students to study in Ghana.
Hence, notwithstanding proof that the frontline organizers and award of scholarships is the Scholarship Secretariat – offer local and foreign scholarships. However, the GETFund Secretariat discontinued scholarship funding to the Scholarship Secretariat contrary to Section 2(2b) of Act 581 and administered scholarships on its own – foreign scholarship.
14. The most salient guidance from Section 2 (2b), of the Act has been extracted and presented hereunder: 2(2b) to provide supplementary funding to the Scholarship Secretariat for the grant of scholarships of Brilliant but needy students for studies in the second cycle and accredited tertiary institutions in Ghana;
The composite effect of these provisions is that GETFund as a public entity has no mandate to undertake activities to select students and award funding scholarships or whatsoever as a duty.
15. We also contend that in the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) as amended by the Criminal Offences (Amendment) Act, 2012 (Act 849) (hereinafter, “the Criminal Code”), the chapter 1 offences involving dishonesty is intimately linked to the umbilical cord of financial loss, creating a spectrum of malfeasance where one act seamlessly morphs into the other. This is made amply clear in Section 179 A:
(1) A person who in the course of a transaction or business with a public body or an agency of the Republic intentionally causes damage or loss whether economic or otherwise to that body or agency commits a criminal offence.
16. It would thus be unreasonable if all investigations of financial improprieties and corrupt practices were to be limited solely to those circumstances where preliminary evidence of a promise of valuable consideration existed from the Performance Report of the Auditor – General. We believe that should EOCO be persuaded to follow the clear trail of financial loss to the state and abuse of office, wanton breaches of law, and defiant episodes of ghost names, the basis for a full-blown organized economic crime (financial lost to the state) investigation shall also be established.
17. To buttress the beliefs expressed above, we have produced the key facts of the matter which is the subject of this complaint below. These facts are in the public domain and have not been repudiated. We have relied extensively on the Performance Audit Report of the Auditor – General on the administration of scholarships by GETFund in compliance with Article 187(2) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana and Section 13(e) of the Audit Service Act, 2000 (Act 584), an of no mean repute, quoting in seriatim and verbatim, wherever necessary, to preserve the accuracy of the contents of their detailed investigative findings.
PART 2: FACTS
1. On or about 24th February, 2020 the Auditor-General released its performance audit report on the administration of scholarships by GETFund.
2. We quote verbatim of the executive summary of the report:
Ø According to Section 2(2b) of the GETFund Act, 2000 (Act 581), the Fund is to provide supplementary funding to the Scholarship Secretariat for granting of scholarships to gifted but needy students to study in second cycle and accredited tertiary institutions in Ghana. The Act made a provision under Subsection 2(2) (e) that allows GETFund Secretariat to promote other educational activities.
Ø GETFund Secretariat breached the object of the Fund and administered the scholarship themselves, and illegally funded foreign scholarships thus, acting outside their mandate.
Ø Prior to 2009, GETFund Secretariat allocated and disbursed funds to Scholarship Secretariat in fulfilment of its obligation in section 2(2)(b) of Act 581. It is observed that GETFund Secretariat discontinued scholarship funding to the Scholarship Secretariat contrary to Section
2(2b) of Act 581 and administered scholarships on its own.
Ø It was observed that in administering the scholarships, GETFund Secretariat did not establish any systems, policies and procedures to ensure the economic, efficient and effective use of public funds. The GETFund Administrator, at his discretion, made all decisions on whom to award scholarships, leading to the imprudent administration of scholarships from 2012 to 2018.
Ø With a Board of Trustees in place to oversee the operations of GETFund Secretariat, it was expected that, the Board would restrain the Administrator (2012-2016) when the Administrator was going overboard under its watch. Instead, the Board did not exercise its oversight responsibility to restrain the Administrator from using his discretion to award scholarships which depleted the Fund. The Board continuously discussed the way the scholarship budget was being over-spent and the need to streamline the spending on scholarship awards but it failed to act on its decisions. GETFund Secretariat through its actions wasted public funds entrusted to its care.
Ø . GETFund Secretariat did not institute measures to ensure scholarship expenditures stayed within scholarship budgets. The GETFund Secretariat exceeded scholarship allocation amount by 300 per cent from 2012 to 2014 and over 100% in 2015, 2016 and 2018; whilst in 2017, it exceeded its budgetary allocation amount by 60.98 per cent.
Ø Additionally, GETFund failed to establish a robust selection process to ensure the scholarships were granted to gifted but needy Ghanaians. The selection process for scholarship award by GETFund Secretariat was none structured, unfair, dominated by one person and porous. This allowed unqualified applicants to benefit rather than brilliant but needy Ghanaians as contemplated by Act 581.
Ø . Finally, GETFund did not institute controls to secure the efficient and effective disbursement of public funds resulting in the payment of GH¢1,895,238.31 for course extensions, change of schools and cost of deferrals which could have been minimized.