General News of Thu, 16 Feb 201717
Free SHS: No decision has been taken to use Heritage Fund - Kwaku Kwarteng
A New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP on Parliament’s Finance Committee says government has not taken any definite decision to use the Heritage Fund to finance the free senior high school (SHS) policy.
Kwaku Kwarteng said government’s ways of funding its flagship programme would be communicated to Ghanaians in its 2017 budget statement scheduled to be presented to Parliament in March.
Speaking to Evans Mensah, host of Joy FM’s Top Story programme Thursday, the Obuasi West Member of Parliament said government is exploring several ways of making the programme feasible.
Addressing the 60th Anniversary of Okuapemman SHS at Akropong Akuapem last Saturday, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo said government would implement the policy coming September.
Related Article: Heritage Fund to be used in financing free SHS - Osafo Maafo
“By free SHS, we mean that in addition to tuition, which is already free, there will be no admission fees, no library fees, no science centre fees, no computer laboratory fees, no examination fees, no utility fees. There will be free textbooks, free boarding and free meals and day students will get a meal at school for free.
“Free SHS will also cover agricultural, vocational and technical institutions at the high school level,” he explained.
Days later, Senior Minister Yaw Osafo Maafo in an interview with Joy News said government might use the Ghana Heritage Fund to finance the policy which is starting in the 2017/2018 academic year.
Related Article: Don’t use Heritage Fund for free SHS – ACEP barks at gov’t
The decision has triggered sharp criticisms from opposition political parties and some civil societies who believe the purpose of the Fund would be defeated if government tap into it.
Section 10 of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act 815 states that,
"A Ghana Heritage Fund is hereby established. (2) The object the Ghana Heritage Fund is to (a) provide an endowment to support development for future generations when petroleum reserves have been depleted; and
(b) receive excess petroleum revenue. (3) The Ghana Heritage Fund shall receive from the Petroleum Holding Fund a percentage petroleum revenue which be determined by Parliament as savings for the purpose of this Act."
National Democratic Congress (NDC) minority in Parliament has described government's decision to use the Ghana Heritage Fund as "lazy and incompetent."
At a news conference addressed by former Deputy Finance Minister, Casiel Ato Forson, the NDC MPs said any attempt to divert the Fund could destabilise the economy of the country.
Despite the controversy the Senior Minister's suggestion has generated, Mr Kwarteng said government has not concluded on funding the policy with the Heritage Fund.
"If government finds the need to do so it will also avert its mind to the counter position and would make a decision that will benefit the people," he said.
He said views expressed by NDC MPs and civil societies have contributed to the policy's debate, adding the 2017 budget would indicate how government wants to finance it.