The Headmaster of Mpraeso Senior Secondary School (MPASS), Mr. Patrick Owusu-Manu has come under serious scrutiny from citizens and parents of Mpraeso over his alleged involvement in fraudulent admissions and other corrupt activities. Public Agenda has gathered that Mr. Owusu-Manu has become one of the richest men in town within the spate of three years that he assumed office as headmaster of the school.
His accusers told Public Agenda that Mr. Owusu-Manu got his wealth illegally through illegal charges, which he levies on parents seeking admission for their wards and over-invoicing of payments for school uniforms, foodstuff and other items.
Though Mr. Owusu-Manu denied these charges in an interview with the Public Agenda on Tuesday February 7, 2006, his accusers maintained that he was lying just to save his face. They dared him to constitute an independent committee of enquiry into his management of the school since January 2003 when he became head of the school and “they would prove him guilty.”
The assets acquired by Mr. Owusu-Manu over the last three years as headmaster of MPASS appear to have fueled the suspicions of these people.
According to his accusers, the headmaster has since 2003 put up a mansion at Nkawkaw, acquired a saloon car with registration number GT 3159 V, a taxi cab with registration number AS 9094 W which, is driven by his second son and opened a spare parts shop at Nkawkaw, opposite the new Lorry park under the name Koman Motors.
On admission fraud, Public Agenda investigations revealed that parents are made to pay twice for admission forms, the first payment of 30,000 cedis is usually paid to the headmaster in his office where no receipts are issued. The same amount is then added to the bill for first year students, which is paid to the bursar's office.
“As a matter of fact, any money paid directly to the headmaster is not accounted for and everyone knows this”, a source told this newspaper. The Headmaster rationalizes these allegations by saying that the first payment covers cost of admission forms and the second, admission fees, which is used for maintenance purposes. He however fumbled when asked to explain other fees charged for maintenance purposes and whether he properly accounts for them. “This is not my innovation. It is what I came to meet, so those who were there before I came should be asked this question”, he said.
He could however not tell this paper whether the Ghana Education Service (GES) had approved these charges but insisted the practice pertains in other schools. Sources also revealed that the headmaster has several people including his two sons and one Mr. Tutu, a Library assistant of the school who front for him in fraudulent admissions.
Information gathered has it that the headmaster made Mr. Tutu popular in the town by using him in his alleged fraudulent admissions instead of going through the usual admission processes that involved the two assistant heads.
Although Mr. Owusu-Manu denies this charge too Mr. Tutu has confirmed it to Public Agenda and has told this paper that it is through his involvement in admissions that the Mpraeso Police recently arrested him.
Meanwhile, in a telephone conversation between Mr. Frederick Owusu-Manu, the first son of the headmaster and a Public Agenda's reporter who pretended to be in need of admission, he (Fredrick) admitted he could facilitate the admission but declined to charge him (reporter), any money, obviously sensing danger. In a recent development, Mr. Owusu-Manu is said to have connived and condoned with Mr. Boadu, a tailor of Nkawkaw to defraud students and their parents to the tune of 180 million cedis by inflating the prices of school uniforms sewn by the tailor.
Our sources say, prior to the arrival of Mr. Owusu-Manu, the school had contracts with three persons who were designing uniforms and ceremonial dresses separately for boys and girls. Mr. Owusu-Manu however abrogated these contracts and handpicked Mr. Boadu to design all the items. He also refused to accept crests designed by an arts tutor of the school and rather preferred stamped crests.
It is believed that Mr. Owusu-Manu and Mr. Boadu reached an agreement to use materials of inferior quality in order to make profit on the items. According to the Library assistant of the school, Mr. Tutu, the headmaster paid 100,000 cedis for the uniforms although the quoted price on the school's prospectus was 170, 000 cedis for the two sets of uniforms.
Luck, however, run out on the headmaster when the tailor refused to accept an undisclosed amount offered him as his share of the booty, insisting rather on a fifty-fifty deal.
As a result of the impasse, the headmaster has abrogated the contract between the school and the tailor and has contracted one Mr. Dan Owusu in Accra who has also failed to deliver all the sets of uniforms to the students.
Mr. Owusu-Manu denies this as well and insists it is rather the reverse, which occurred. He claimed Mr. Boadu owed the school some money, and he, as the Headmaster had demanded for it to be settled.
Meanwhile, a source close to Mr. Boadu has confirmed the incident to Public Agenda and revealed that Mr. Owusu-Manu has threatened to kill Mr. Boadu if he does not refrain from demanding his share of the money. As a result Mr. Boadu is unwilling to comment on the issue.
Another charge levelled against Mr. Owusu-Manu has to do with conflict of interest. His accusers say he has by-passed the tender board of the school and abrogated the contract with one Madam Oforiwaa of Nkwatia-Kwahu, a food supplier, and given it to his wife.
According to Public Agenda sources within the school, Madam Oforiwaa had supplied food items to the school for seventeen (17) years and had over the period been very reliable and actually offered the school very flexible terms of payment.
A source told this paper that Mr. Owusu Manu is behind the food supplies and uses his second wife, Madam Agatha Boateng who is based at Agogo as a front. It is also said that, while Madam Oforiwaa was footing the transportation cost herself, Madam Agatha Boateng uses the Science Resource center's bus and occasionally, the school truck to cart the food items from Agogo for which the school paid transportation charges.
She is also reported to be selling the food items, mainly maize and rice, at prices higher than what pertains on the open market. The bags of rice and maize are even said to weigh less than normal.
Again, Mr. Owusu-Manu dismissed the allegations and described them as the works of people who want to tarnish his image. He admits his wife supplies the food items but says she won the contract through tender.
He also described Madam Oforiwaa as an unreliable person who sometimes failed to supply the items on time, hence the decision by the tender board to abrogate her contract.