Let’s be careful about these reckless spendings and purchases
The latest news item that trended on social media about two weeks ago, was the spending of a whopping GH¢34.8 million on past questions for the 2021 West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) candidates by the government.
In that story the Minister of Education, Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum, was reported to have told parliament that the ministry procured 446,954 sets of past questions at a unit price of GH¢78.00. He explained that the unit price represented a 32 per cent increase over the year 2020 unit price of GH¢59.00. The ministry, he said, reportedly received 416,060 Scientific Mathematical Instruments to the tune of GH¢ 31,204,500.00.
REASONS FOR THE PURCHASE OF PAST QUESTION PAPERS
Addressing parliament on Wednesday, July 14, 2021, the minister indicated that the decision was to prepare the final year students for the 2021 WASSCE and that the items which were funded from the Free Senior High School Account, were purchased from Messrs Kingdom Books and Stationery.
“Mr Speaker, in 2020, Government through its efforts to help students amidst COVID-19 pandemic, to prepare for the 2020 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), procured 568,755 past questions for students to try their hands on before sitting for the actual exam,”he said.
He intimated that the procurement of these past questions which was funded through the Free Senior High School account ensured that the results of the 2020 WASSCE was tremendous compared with previous years’ WASSCE performance.
CONTROVERSY OVER THE PURCHASE OF PAST QUESTION PAPERS
The procurement of these items by the government has since generated a lot of controversy among the people, especially members from the main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC). Besides, there have been divergent views as to why the country should spend that colossal amount to procure these items. Why some are in favour of the purchase of the past questions which they claimed has improved the performance of the students in the past, others think it was needless and baseless because of the country’s financial situation. Both sets of opinion are welcomed and that people are entitled to them.
Whether the purchase of these items was done through the laid down procurement processes, is another issue that must be interrogated further. Besides, issues involving purchases of such items must be laid before, parliament for consensus and approval by members from both sides of the House. This, therefore, raises questions as to whether the Minority side of the house, was not aware of the purchase of these items.
PREPARATION OF FINAL YEAR STUDENTS TOWARDS WASCE
If my memory serves me right, I quite remembered that what pertained to the past regarding preparations of final year students of the former West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE) was for the students themselves to purchase their own past examination questions for which the teachers used to prepare them for the real examination. That was, indeed, necessary because it exposed the students to become familiar with the questions, so that they could answer them easily when the real examination took place. That in effect minimised fears and anxiety among the students and gave them some sort of encouragement to write the examinations.
GOVERNMENT EXPENDITURE ON PAST QUESTION PAPERS
It is, therefore, surprising to hear that the government is now spending huge sums of money to buy these past examination papers for the students every year. Whether these past questions are left in the hands of the students after their examination is something that should be brought to public domain. In any case, these past questions become stale every year because of the mode of how these questions are set for the students to answer.
What is more baffling, is the tendency of government to use the COVID-19 pandemic to justify some of these purchases with our meagre resources at the least opportunity. That is not fair and we need to move away from that viewpoint.
PROCUREMENT OF MATHEMATICAL INSTRUMENTS
Another issue that need to be thoroughly interrogated and investigated was the procurement of 416, 060 scientific mathematical instruments at GH¢ 31,204,500. The public and for that matter Ghanaians will be interested in knowing the mode of distribution of these items which were purchased with the taxpayers’ money.
This country is facing financial crisis and that can be seen in the various sectors of the economy. School children are learning under trees as there are limited classrooms to accommodate them, some are even writing on bare floors, there are no classroom furniture, our roads are bad and deplorable, there are areas without pipe borne water or boreholes, public hospitals and clinics are crying for drugs and essential equipment, there are food shortages and this has facilitated the rising cost of living among the people, lack of funds to purchase vaccines to deal with the rising trend of the deadly coronavirus disease, yet money is spent aimlessly and needlessly on things that have no relevance to our survival as a nation.
PURCHASE OF SPUTNIK VACCINES
It is recalled that recently, there was a controversy over the mode of procurement of 3.4 million doses of the Sputnik vaccines from a middleman by the Ministry of Health which generated a lot of anxiety among Ghanaians.
The media, especially the internet, were inundated with criticisms of the government, especially the health ministry over the mode of procurement of those vaccines.
A popular Norwegian website on the internet alleged that the Ghana Government signed an agreement to purchase the Sputnik vaccines manufactured and produced in Russia at US$19 per dose instead of US$10. The Finance Minister alluded to the contract and explained that the government had no choice to make in order to protect the people, hence the decision to pay for the purchase of US$19 Sputnik vaccine.
This matter is currently pending before a parliamentary committee set up by the Speaker to investigate the mode of procurement of these vaccines.
LOOKING DOWN ON THE CITIZENS BY SUBSEQUENT GOV’TS
It is a fact that subsequent governments have not put the interests of the people as their priority and have allowed them to suffer unjustifiably and unduly, even though they secure their mandates to govern this country. Once they gain power, they forget them entirely to wallow in abject poverty.
This is the time for Ghanaians to rise up and hold government accountable for any funds used in the provision of goods and services for our country. Let us not allow these reckless spending and purchases to go on without speaking against them because, after all, it is our own money (taxpayers’ money) which is being used to provide social and economic infrastructure for our dear country.
We cannot continue to spend money recklessly and aimlessly, only to fall back on the multilateral and bilateral institutions internationally to bail us out of our predicaments. The public purse must be well protected and safeguarded through the adherence of the procurement processes as enshrined in the 1992 Constitution.
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