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14.03.2006 Regional News

Ho Polytechnic branch of POTAG calls for resignation of top management

By GNA

Ho, March 14, GNA - The Polytechnic Teachers Association of Ghana, (POTAG) Ho Polytechnic, has called for the resignation of its Principal, Finance Officer and the Polytechnic Council to facilitate the resumption of normal academic work suspended since the beginning of February. POTAG's call stemmed from differences between it and the polytechnic's authorities over a five billion-cedi loan package from a bank to staff of the polytechnic. "Our departure predates the call of POTAG", Dr George Mawusi Afeti Principal of the Polytechnic, said at a news briefing on Tuesday in relation to issues raised by POTAG.

A letter from the Polytechnic Council signed by its Chairman Professor F. O. Kwame to Dr Afeti titled, "Renewal of Appointment for Three years" dated 11 November 2003, indicated that Dr. Afeti's appointment would come to an end on September 30, 2006. Mr Kofi Osei-Afoakwa, the Finance Officer, has similarly tended his resignation with effect from February ending this year, Dr Afeti said. Briefing the Press on behalf of the local branch of POTAG earlier on Monday, Mr Deladem Paul Koku, its Chairman, accused the management of lack of faith for refusing to provide the institutional guarantee required for the disbursement of the loan as has been done by managements of some sister polytechnics regarding the same package. Mr Koku accused management of being insensitive to the welfare of staff, having cancelled some internal financial packages that had been sources of relief to staff on grounds of lack of funds. On the contrary, he alleged, top management had undertaken a number of expensive expansion and renovation works to satisfy their individual personal comfort.

In reaction to the issues raised, Dr Afeti explained that when the bank approached the polytechnic management with the five-billion-cedi package, it referred the matter to the Polytechnic Council and it "decided that the polytechnic does not have the mandate to provide such an institutional guarantee to the bank". He said the National Council on Tertiary Education (NCTE) on being consulted, said the Polytechnic "does not have the capacity to provide the institutional guarantee." Dr Afeti said the Council thereafter "set up a sub-committee to explore any legal avenues that would enable staff to access the loan facility short of an institutional guarantee". He said the State Insurance Company was then approached for a loan protection insurance cover that could replace the institutional guarantee.

Dr Afeti said SIC however "declined to offer a full, all-risks included insurance cover for the five billion cedis" and that that Polytechnic would have to take up 50 percent of the guarantee. He said with that avenue closed, management "succeeded in negotiating a new 3 billion cedi loan facility" from the same bank that does not require an institutional guarantee but unlike the five billion cedis package was repayable over 24 months at an interest rate of 24 percent. Dr Afeti explained that given the low salary levels at the polytechnic the 3 billion-cedi package was a more feasible and manageable package for the staff and that for the same reason of low salaries the suggestion by POTAG that staff end of service benefits be forfeited in case of default in the five billion cedis package was not feasible. He said the new package was available to any member of staff that wished to take advantage of it at anytime.

Dr Afeti said the door was however not closed to the five billion cedis package as the "Council may wish to seek advice of the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning on whether the polytechnic can commit public funds to guarantee personal loans contracted by its staff. "Management and Council", Dr Afeti said "will continue to dialogue with POTAG to arrive at an amicable solution to the impasse and that "the Academic Board will meet to decide measures to protect the academic calendar and the academic integrity of the Polytechnic.'' Dr Afeti said management has not breached any part of the collective agreement between it and staff to warrant stoppage of work and that advances for the payment of rent, purchase of cars and salary advances continued to be paid after a brief suspension in 2002 following some financial difficulties that faced the Polytechnic then. Dr Afeti therefore urged POTAG to end its boycott of academic work while avenues were explored to resolve the matter.

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