Row In Parliament Over $15m Loan

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA decision by the government to spend $15 million dollars on research, monitoring and evaluation under the Ghana Secondary School Education Improvement Project generated hot exchanges in Parliament yesterday.

Some lawmakers were worried about the government’s decision to spend such an amount on research, monitoring and evaluation, which constitute about 10 per cent of the entire project sum.

There were also disagreements over a scholarship scheme under the project which had the provision of sanitary pads, rulers, pens, pencils and mathematical sets, among others, as part of the scholarship package.

For hours, the law makers debated the contract agreement, which is between the government and the International Development Association (IDA) at a cost of US$156 million, to finance the project.

A motion for the House to adopt a report by the Committee on Finance for the approval of the amount had to be decided by a head count. The members voted strictly on party lines, with the majority side beating their minority counterparts by 105 to 82 votes.

Although the financing agreement was approved by the House, members from the minority refrained from participating in the resolution that led to the approval of the facility.

Under the project, US$98.8 million will be used to construct 23 new Senior High Schools, US$9 million for the upgrade of 75 existing SHS, US$16 million for the expansion of 50 schools, a three-year scholarship scheme for 10,400 students at a cost of US$15.6 million, and an amount of US$0.6 million and US$15.9 million for contingency and research, monitoring and evaluation respectively.

An amount of US$15 million is to be used to strengthen the capacity of the Ministry of Education to ensure an effective project implementation, monitoring and evaluation of project results and sector performance.

Part of the amount will also be used to support the development and implementation of the government’s Senior High School policy and priorities and strengthen ongoing and new data collection, monitoring and information management system.

The loan attracts an interest of 1.25 per cent per annum, commitment charge of 0.5 per cent per annum on the principal amount not withdrawn, service charge of 0.75 per cent per annum on the withdrawn balance, and a prepayment period of 20 years.

The criteria for selection of beneficiaries for the scholarship scheme under the project are to be based on students who take care of themselves, disabled students without support, orphans without support, students living with HIV/AIDS, students from LEAP beneficiary households, and students with the sickle cell disease.

Others include students in households with income below the minimum wage, students from single parent families with low income, students of unemployed parents or guardians and students from large households unable to afford to send all their children to school. Every student, under the scheme, will benefit from an amount of US$500 for every academic year.

The Minority Spokesperson on Finance, Dr. Anthony Akoto Osei, raised serious concerns with the amount budgeted for monitoring and evaluation and urged the House not to approve the facility

He said the government did not do due diligence before developing the finance agreement, adding, “How do we explain this to the good people of Ghana when we give approval to this agreement?”

The out-gone Minister of Information, Mahama Ayariga, explained that the US$15 million would be used to buy vehicles for the District Education Offices to monitor the progress of work in more than 100 project sites.

He also said that an ICT platform would be developed for the project with GPS systems to map every SHS in the country to enhance effective implementation of the project.

“This is a thought-through pro-gramme. If implemented, it will significantly improve the quality of education in the country,” he said. By Yaw Kyei

 

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