The Herald’s digging of the Ghana Education Trust fund (GETFund) Scholarship scandal, which has rocked the nation is revealing deeper insight than the public had been informed about, among them are claims Education Minister, Matthew Opoku Prempeh and Minister of Procurement, Sarah Adwoa Sarfo, are holding some dirty secrets on the scheme.
This paper is also informed party to these secrets, is Mavis Nkansah Boadu, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Afigya Sekyere East Constituency in the Ashanti region, who is also listed as beneficiary of the GETfund Scholarship scheme.
Reports suggest that, the three might together have profited from scholarships scheme from state institutions, such as the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), as well as the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC).
According to The Herald’s sources in Parliament, Mavis Nkansah Boadu, is a relative of Sarah Adwoa Sarfo and both of them profited from the GETFund scholarships at different times through the instrumentality of Matthew Opoku Prempeh.
Mavis Nkansah Boadu, Matthew Opoku Prempeh and Sarah Adwoa Sarfo, have all been captured as having attended Harvard Kennedy School in the United States of America.
Sarah Adwoa Sarfo’s conference was priced at a total of US$29,804, covering tuition and living allowance, while her cousin, Mavis Nkansah Boadu, was in the same school studying Global Change Agent Leadership Programme for unspecified amount.
Minister of Education, had been to the same school for Senior Executive in National and International Security for $24,000, covering his tuition and living allowance.
Although, it is not clear whether Mavis Nkansah Boadu, benefited from any other scholarship packages from state institutions aside the GETfund, The Herald, has been drawn to the NHIS and GNPC; the two institutions might have supported the three individuals with scholarships to study abroad with state money.
The Herald’s parliamentary sources suggest that, the Minister of Education, has gotten NHIA to fund some of his studies abroad, adding only a thorough investigation, could reveal the extent of his state funded studies abroad.
However, the source say, Matthew OpokuP rempeh, has for a very long time been profiting from these state funded trips and has made not less than six trips outside Ghana.
He is said to have introduced both Mavis Nkansah Boadu and Sarah Adwoa Sarfo, to the schemes.
Interestingly, while it is hard to pin down Mavis Nkansah Boadu, on anything aside GETfund Scholarship, same cannot be said for Sarah Adwoa Sarfo.
Ms. Sarfo, who is also the Deputy Majority Leader in Parliament, according to a document leaked from the NHIA, dated March 16, 2018, had demanded a whopping US$8,500 for the cost of a plane ticket and accommodation on an Executive Programme on women and leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School from April 29, to May 4, 2018.
In the letter addressed to the Chief Executive of the NHIA, titled request for sponsorship, she said she was attending the course as the Chairman of Women Caucus in Parliament, and was of the belief the programme “would enlighten and enhance my knowledge in leadership and governance.
Sarah Adwoa Safo, a lawyer turned politician and the MP Dome Kwabenya Constituency, made the demand, while serving as minister of state.
This paper is informed about several of such schemes employed by many highly-placed state actors in getting state funding from multiple sources to travel abroad for studies, while the poor and needy suffer. They are not given these social interventions.
Ignatius Baffour-Awuah, Employment and Labour Relations Minister, as well as other government appointees and Members of Parliament (MP), have been listed by the Auditor General, as beneficiaries of the GETFund scholarships, a policy meant for needy, but brilliant students.
Deputy Minister for Food and Agriculture, Kennedy Osei Nyarko, who has also been captured, has threatened to sue the Auditor-General, if he fails to retract his name from the list of beneficiaries. He is not sure whether somebody has benefited from the scheme in his name.
Meanwhile, the Audit Service’s recent performance audit on the administration of scholarships GETFund, has been described as a tip of the iceberg and a proper investigation will reveal the extent of the rot.
The audit, according to personnel from the Audit Service, was necessitated by complaints from students abroad experiencing delayed disbursement of funds, among other issues.
The Principal Auditor at the Audit Service, Alberta Awoo, who made this known on the Citi Breakfast Show, said the audit also sought to discover whether GETFund, was acting in tandem with its mandate.
“We were there to ascertain whether GETFund acted in accordance with its mandate as stated in the GETFund Act 2000 Act 581 in administering scholarships. We went there because we had information on the hardship students were going through whiles studying in schools abroad based on the difficulties they had in paying their fees because of delays in funds from GETFund.
“So we focused on whether GETFund had established systems and policies to ensure that the funds were applied efficiently and effectively and whether they had measures to award scholarships within its funds allocation and whether they had selection process to ensure that scholarships were granted to qualified Ghanaians and finally whether they have instituted controls to secure the efficient and effective disbursement of public funds. We have various types of audit and performance audits are not the regular audit that the Auditor General carries out yearly but rather necessitated public outcry, news in the media and other things.”
The Auditor-General, ultimately indicted the GETFund for breaching its mandate and “illegally” funding foreign scholarships.
The performance audit report, said the GETFund Secretariat “breached the object of the fund and administered the scholarship themselves.”
The report also said, “GETFund did not establish any systems, policies, and procedures to ensure the economic, efficient and effective use of public funds.”
The Auditor-General concluded that the failings of the GETFund led to brilliant but needy students being deprived of scholarship in favour of politicians in some cases.
But the former Director of the GETFund, Sam Garba, has 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 that over 2,000 scholarships were awarded to undeserving people including politicians.
The report, which covered a period between 2012 and 2018 found that the GETFund largely circumvented processes to award the scholarships and failed to institute systems to 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.
But an ex-Chairman of the Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC), Kofi Asare, has said there should be radical reforms in the management of scholarships at GETFund.
According to the GETFund’s Annual Reports from 2012 to 2018, the secretariat spent over four hundred million cedis on scholarships on 3,112 beneficiaries out of which 2,217 persons were unlawfully granted scholarships to study abroad.
Commenting on the latest report, Mr Asare said Ghanaians should demand accountability from the Secretariat.
“This audit report is actually an opportunity to catapult the need for reforms in the policy-making conduct. It is time for civil society and the media to begin to raise the issue to try and get the attention of local authority towards reforming GETFund because what we need to do is to depoliticize GETFund.
“But not necessarily a new law – the law is skewed because what they are doing is outside the law since they are giving the monies to party boys and girls, cronies and privileged people in the society is not part of the law. So we need to use this auditor report to demand radical reforms in the management of the Fund irrespective of the administration in power.”
The Auditor-General report listed the Minister of Education, Matthew Opoku-Prempeh, the Procurement Minister, Sarah Adwoa Safo and the Executive Secretary of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, Prince Hamidu Armah, as scholarship beneficiaries of the scheme in the past.
But GETFund says the three notable government appointees captured as scholarship beneficiaries in a performance audit report from the Auditor-General were not awarded scholarships under the current administration.
In a statement, it said, “the aforementioned persons have not been awarded scholarships by the Fund under the current administration.”
Also in reaction to the report, the GETFund said its mandate was not limited to serving needy but brilliant students, in line with the GETFund Act 2000.
“The fund may, per its mandate, also provide support for other educational activities and programmes to serve strategic national interests.”
Despite the backlash, GETFund has challenged claims of mismanagement and illegalities contained in the Auditor-General’s report.
In a long response to the Auditor General, it discredited many of the assertions in the report, indicating among other things that the claim that it had discontinued scholarship funding to the Scholarship Secretariat since 2008 is false.
“In 2009 and 2010 the Scholarship Secretariat submitted a schedule of fees and stipends due Ghanaian Students studying abroad for the GETFund to transfer same to the Ghanaian Missions abroad.
“In 2011 as part of special allocations towards social intervention programmes, at the instance of Government, an amount of GHS22m (twenty-two million Ghana Cedis)was allocated and released to the scholarship Secretariat,” GETFund said in its response.
GETFund added that it did not receive a request for the release of funds from the Scholarships Secretariat until 2017.