The Auditor-General has, in a ‘disturbing’ report, slammed the GETFUND for “unlawfully” dishing out more than $4.7m in scholarships to persons who are anything but needy students.
The report listed some 86 beneficiaries which included “Members of Parliament, politicians, media practitioners, lecturers, heads of institutions and associates.”
The Labour and Employment Minister, Ignatius Baffour Awuah, received a scholarship to study at the University of Portsmouth for a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Politics.
His living expenses and tuition amounted to more than £24,000.
The Deputy Majority Leader, Sarah Adwoa Safo, who is a daughter to a rich philanthropist, Apostle Kwadwo Safo, also benefited from a conference at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Her conference cost the taxpayer $29,000 including living expenses.
The Education Minister, Matthew Opoku Prempeh, helped obtained a scholarship at Harvard University in the US to study “National and International Security” costing $24,000, including living expenses.
The Auditor-General’s report which covered 2012 to 2018 said;
“GETFund administered scholarships (local and foreign) even though it did not have the mandate to do so. The amount of money spent on foreign scholarships could have paid for many more Ghanaians to gain tertiary level education as intended by the Act.
“Very disturbing is the fact that gifted, but needy students ended up borrowing from the student’s loan scheme or elsewhere while officials who are highly placed in society took the scholarships not even for their wards, but for themselves.”
The Sam Garba-led GETFUND
The report was at pains to stress that the selection process of beneficiaries was “unfair”, “haphazard” and largely at the discretion of the GETFUND administrator.
The Auditor-General pointed out that the poor management of the GETFUND began in 2009 after the GETFUND discontinued giving funds to the Scholarship Secretariat, which is the recognised institution for scholarships.
The report said that infringed on Section 2(2b) of the GETFund Act, 2000 (Act 581).
The GETFUND led by Sam Garba administered these scholarships directly, a practice which the Management (GETFund) said was allowed under Section 2(2e) of the Act.
But to award scholarships, the GETFUND needed to set up systems to ensure fairness and prudent management of the funds.
It did not, infringing on the Financial Administration Act, 2003, (Act 654). This failure led to the GETFUND inefficiently spending GH¢1.8 million of public funds from 2012 to 2018.
It also led to a process that was “non-structured, unfair, dominated by one person and porous. This allowed unqualified applicants to benefit rather than brilliant but needy Ghanaians.”
The report studied how scholarships were disbursed at institutions such as the GNPC Oil and Gas Learning Foundation and the Australian Government Research Training Programme Scholarship
The report leaned on three principles used by these institutions: their system for determining funding available for scholarships, their Policy on eligibility for scholarship, and their scholarships administration process – publicity of scholarships available, the application process, selection process, monitoring, administrative and fiscal reporting.
In all these areas, the report found the GETFUND wanting:
“GETFund Secretariat had no policy on eligibility, as a result, granting of scholarships were based on the discretion of the Administrator.
“We noted that GETFund Secretariat from 2012 to 2017 did not advertise scholarship applications,” the report said.
In many cases, a note on a card from a politician was sufficient to get a scholarship.
While recognised scholarship-awarding institutions regularly monitored the academic progress of their students and requested for academic reports, the “GETFund Secretariat did not request in its sponsorship letters for schools to submit progress reports to enable them to monitor the academic progress of scholarship beneficiaries for continuous sponsorship”
Of the over 2,000 students awarded, only four voluntarily submitted reports.
A culture of overspending and poor oversight
From 2012 to 2018, Parliament approved GH¢1.69million allocation by the GETFund Secretariat to fund scholarships. The GETFund Secretariat, however, spent more than GH¢4.25m on scholarship beneficiaries.
“In administering the scholarships, the GETFund consistently exceeded its yearly budget by an average of 215.9% from 2012 to 2018.”
The Auditor-General also slammed the Board of Trustees for allowing a one-man show and abandoning its oversight responsibilities.
“We expected the Board to query the Administrator for dominating the selection process. Instead, the Board sat aloof and allowed the Administrator to use his discretion to award scholarships and deplete the allocation for scholarships.”
“The Board did not implement its intention to streamline scholarship award.”
The Education Minster has denied taking any scholarship since assuming office. He reportedly took the scholarship in 2014 when he was only an MP.
The GETFUND has also stated, scholarships are not limited to only brilliant and needy students.