Edem Senanu, Co-Chair of the Citizens Movement Against Corruption, has called on President Nana Akufo-Addo to immediately probe the discrepancies in the number of Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) candidates who have benefited from the government’s free hot meals.
This is necessary because the discrepancies have raised the cost of the free meals to about GH¢3.6 million.
The disparities in the figures relate to a difference of 52,295 BECE candidates between the figure of 584,000 BECE candidates announced by President Akufo-Addo and 531,705 BECE candidates published by the West African Education Council (WAEC).
Mr Senanu made this call when he appeared as guest on the Corruption Watch (CW) show on Adom FM following a CW’s discovery of discrepancies in the number of candidates announced as BECE candidates who were to benefit from one-hot-meal-a-day programme announced by the president.
CW learnt that the cost of feeding each pupil was GH¢3.50, bringing the cost of feeding these extra 52,295 candidates or the difference between the President’s figure and WAEC’s to GH¢3,660,650 for the 20 days the candidates were fed the free hot meals.
It is recalled that on Sunday, August 16, 2020, President Akufo-Addo announced the distribution of free hot meals to BECE candidates and their teachers for 20 days during his 15th COVID-19 update address to the nation.
He said: “As a result of reports I have received that some final year JHS [Junior High School] students are going hungry in complying with COVID-19 protocols, I have instructed the Minister for Gender and Social Protection to begin preparation to ensure that as from 24th August up to 18th of September, all 584,000 final year JHS students and 146,000 staff both in public and private schools be given one hot meal a day. This is to ensure full adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols.”
Listen to President Akufo-Addo below:
The Ministry for Gender and Social Protection, Cynthia Morrison, whose Ministry was instructed to implement the directive told Citi News a day after the President’s address that her Ministry was ready to act upon his directive for final year JHS pupils and their teachers in a school to be served with one hot meal each day until the end of their exit exam in September 2020.
During the interview, she said the exercise would be easy as they have the data of the number of people to be served already.
“We have the register of the students and so we have the accurate number of students that we are going to cater for. We also have the accurate number of teachers that we are going to cater for so it makes it easier than the first time we did the food allocation. Both private and public school children writing the BECE are going to benefit and it is the same school feeding caterers who are going to cater for the pupils,” she said.
Meanwhile, on August 24, 2020, the first day of the distribution of the hot meal, during an interview on Peace FM, the Gender Minister was not able to state the total number of students to be served and the budget despite stating categorically on the 17th that they had records of the exact number of beneficiaries.
Listen to the Minister below:
Similarly, the Education Minister, Dr Mathew Opoku-Prempeh on September 14, 2020 at 7: 25 made a post on his Facebook wall, the first paragraph read:
“This week, 531,674 candidates will be writing the Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE), the terminal examinations for Junior High Schools (JHS).”
The post was accompanied by the artwork below:
WAEC, the institution in charge of the BECE, has meanwhile published the total number of pupils who registered as candidates for the 2020 BECE and the total number was 531,705.
This figure was backed by a regional breakdown and gender breakdown which totaled the 531,705 candidates.
|THE WEST AFRICAN EXAMINATIONS COUNCIL, ACCRA|
|BASIC EDUCATION CERTIFICATE EXAMINATION,|
FOR SCHOOL CANDIDATES
|ENTRY FIGURES BY REGION —-2020|
|S/N||REGION||MALE CANDIDATES||FEMALE CANDIDATES||TOTAL CANDIDATES|
|4||Western & Western North||28,059||26,373||54,432|
|6||Bono, Ahafo, & Bono East||25,800||23,925||49,725|
|7||Volta & Oti||20,015||18,177||38,192|
|8||Northern, North East & Savannah||23,375||20,125||43,500|
Disparity and financial implication
Dr Gertrude Quashigah, National Coordinator of the Ghana School Feeding Programme, in an interview on Adom TV’s The Big Agenda disclosed that the hot meal costs GH¢3.50 per head.
CW, has, thus, analyzed the financial implication of the three different number of candidates using the GHc3.50 per head by the 20 days.
|Price per head GHc3.50||Total number of BECE candidates quoted by each||Difference in the total number of BECE candidates||Total cost daily. GHc3.50(number of candidates they each mentioned)||Total cost of hot meal in 20 days||Difference in the total cost per the number of candidates|
|President Nana Akufo-Addo||584,000||Prez-WAEC 52,295||GH¢2,044,000||GH¢40,880,000||Prez-WAEC GH¢3,660,650|
|Minister of Education||531,674||WAEC-NAPO 31||GHc1,860,859||GHc37,217,180||WAEC-NAPO GHc2,170|
Thus, the President mentioned a figure 584,000 which is 52,295 more than the total registered number published by WAEC 531,705. The cost of feeding these extra 52,295 candidates or the difference between the President’s figure and WAEC’s is GH¢3,660,650.00.
Citizens Movement Against Corruption
While commending the president for the decision to provide the free hot meals, Mr Senanu described the disparities in the number of candidates as unfortunate.
“Someone should have quickly worked to correct those mistakes. This is why I worry about why we don’t fire people, who gave the President that figure? Was it intended to line someone’s pocket so they inflated it so that the 52,295 extra will go into someone’s pocket? Or was it a mistake which is deserving of someone being fired? And we don’t take any action in this country that really annoys me.”
He described it as a major matter of concern, especially when the President will not come back to address that: “52,295 is a major matter of concern, especially when the President will not come back or his spokesperson or the Ministry of Education or the other people who have spoken, it’s a serious indictment, as soon as WAEC indicated that the numbers are far less than what the President said, right from the Presidency, somebody should have spoken to this.”
Continuing, he said if somebody gave the president the wrong information, they should fire him/her “We shouldn’t be allowing all kinds of things to happen. If it is also investigated and someone internationally did that so that extra money will be given to them, we should also know. It is a major issue of concern.”
He said “if they were transparent, as soon as there is a mistake in the figures, especially knowing that those figures are connected to the food and the money going to be given to the people cooking, that’s an issue of transparency and the people have the right to know exactly what is going on.
“We must ensure that the right things are done by getting documentation supporting what the President said and if there is a mistake, they should let us know.”
Mr Senanu was strongly of the view that the Presidency has to establish an investigation into how it ended up with a figure far inflated in excess of what the candidates on the grounds are per the records of WAEC and report the finding of the investigation back to Ghanaians as to what has happened. This report, he suggested, should include how many students were fed and what monies were released so that there is transparency and accountability.
Africa Education Watch
Executive Director at Africa Education Watch(AEW), Kofi Asare
Speaking on the same Corruption Watch show, Kofi Asare, Executive Director at Africa Education Watch (AEW), disclosed that AEW noticed the disparity and expressed disappointment that no spokesperson of the President had come out to clarify this issue till today, marking the last day of the 20-day-hot-meal distribution.
Mr Asare said the comments of the Gender Minister that they are acting on the directive of the President implies that they are indeed cooking for 584,000 BECE candidates.
He said he is concerned about why the Ministry of Gender has failed to explain why they are cooking for 584,000 candidates when the number of registered candidates is 531,705.
“The 52,295 difference amounts to close to GHC4million, we need to know where the close to GHC4m worth of food is going, is it the case that they are cooking less than that or they are cooking the 584,000 the President mentioned, and if so, which people are eating the extra food?”
He observed that the attitude of Ministries, Departments and Agencies has been to keep everything secret as though they have a sense of entitlement that they have no obligation to disclose any documentation or information to the public unless they feel so.
Mr Asare alleged that the School Feeding Programme has always been run like a ‘Party Office Annex’, where contracts are given to party faithful who in turn see it as a reward, adding that the School Feeding Programme must be decoupled from the party to ensure accountability.
He explained that the AEW was against the provision of the free hot meal for candidates from the day it was announced as in its view, the money should have been kept to take care of other pressing needs of the education sector post-COVID-19 reopening of the academic year.
Mr Asare said following the partial reopening of schools, AEW toured over 200 schools and never recorded incidents of pupils starving.
Source: Corruption Watch, Ghana