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13.05.2008 Education

“High quality” fish lands former headmistress in trouble

By GNA
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Accra, May 13, GNA – The Auditor-General has found out that Mfansteman Girls Senior High School bought fresh tuna at 288.3 million old cedis between January 2002 and November 2003 at the unit cost of between eight million
and 10 million old cedis per ton while the market price was estimated at five million old cedis.
The school therefore is reported to have lost an estimated 119.75 million old cedis through over-invoicing due to failure to invite quotations from different sources as required by the Public Procurement Act, 2003, Act 663.
The Auditor-General has therefore recommended that management should hold the supplier responsible for the refund of the excess payment to the school or to surcharge the former headmistress, Mrs. Elizabeth Afredua Croffie, for violating the law.
Mrs. Croffie's case was one of the many brought before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament on pre-university educational institutions.
She explained to the PAC that the fish she bought was of a higher quality than those other schools bought. Besides, she said, the fish was bought on an open market in Tema.
Members of the committee were, however, divided as what judgment to give about Mrs. Croffie's case. While some argued that it may be true the fish she bought was of higher quality, others said there was nothing to prove that the fish she bought was of higher quality.
Ms. Akua Sena Dansoa, member of the committee, suggested that a sub-committee be set up to look at the case critically but the chairman of the Committee said as agreed earlier, the former headmistress's pension should be used to pay for the difference.
Heads of educational institutions, led by Mrs. Angelina Baiden-Amissah, Deputy Minister in-charge of pre-university education at the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports, answered many queries by the PAC.
Queries against the schools in the report covering December 2004 included non-submission of schools accounts for auditing, unsupported payments made by specific schools, store irregularities, lost or stolen library books and non-deduction of withholding tax.
Mr. Samuel Bannerman-Mensah, Director-General of the Ghana Education Service (GES), who responded to some of the issues raised, said the GES had put in place sanctions, including freezing of salaries of schools that did not comply with the submission of their accounts.
He said the GES would also organize periodic workshops for accountants and heads of schools to build their capacity in that field.
Another problem the GES boss identified was the freezing on recruitment of non-teaching staff since 2002, and appealed to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education to help lift that ban so that the service could employ qualified non-teaching staff.
Mr Samuel Sallas Mensah, Chairman of the PAC, said the committee's public meetings had helped improve the rate of compliance and implementation of recommendations from Parliament.
“As at last Friday, 13 Ministries, Departments and Agencies out of 15 had responded to the directive from Parliament to implement recommendations of the PAC. Most of them have successfully implemented the recommendations while a few are pleading time to do so,” he said.
Mr Mensah pointed out that the committee was not out to witch-hunt but was only playing its role in the accountability process.
He said the PAC would thus listen to everybody with an open mind and would welcome suggestions as to how to improve financial governance in pre-university educational institutions.

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