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Opinions Sat, 14 Apr 2012

A Call On Parliament To Investigate Scholarships

A Call On Parliament To Investigate The Disbursement Of ghana Government Scholarships

1. After I have dedicated long years of investigation into the disbursement of Ghana Government Scholarships through the Ghana Educational Trust Fund (GETFund), it has become very clear that scholarships awarded by the fund for the pursuit of higher education do not necessarily go to the most brilliant and deserving students. These scholarships, instead of supporting academic excellence, have been turned into a thank you package for family members, friends, party praise-singers, loved ones, and appendages and bootlickers to the neglect of the truly deserving Ghanaian students.

2. The essence of scholarships in the hope that scholars may learn new ideas and become conduits of innovation in the development discourse has long been lost on those in charge of the country’s financial vault. If it cost the Government of Ghana, for that matter the taxpaying Ghanaian, at least US$70, 000 for beneficiaries to obtain master’s degree in the social sciences and about US$100, 000 to educate engineering students in any US university, then any investment in individual beneficiaries must be evaluated on merit – academic excellence and the potential to succeed in graduate school. Sadly, these opportunities of graduate education are being channeled to friends, relatives, and party-praise singers who do not have to necessarily prove “anything” to the awarding institutions. The results are that:

i. Some of these individuals on GETFUND scholarships could not even complete their programs in time, hence require more money from the Ghana Government.

ii. Others cannot pass their qualifying examinations and hence not able to get their degrees. It must be pointed out that for any extension of program, due to the inability of beneficiaries to produce their thesis, pass their qualifying examination and so on; additional cost is incurred by the taxpaying Ghanaian. The result is a wanton dissipation of the nation’s resources without recourse to priorities. In other arena it would have been classified as causing financial loss to the state.

The point is that if even “Kayayeis,” or porters at Makola Market pay tax or other forms of levy in order to practice their trade, then any money generated from the Valued Added Tax (VAT) from which these scholarship are awarded, must be targeted to benefit all and sundry including the children of the farmer’s labors and the kayayos as long as there is a transparent and equitable way of awarding these scholarships.. For example, if Government is spending US$70, 000 on a single individual, the program of study of that individual and the potential to succeed in graduate school must be well evaluated through “best practice,” to ensure that our opportunities are maximized.

3. I am aware of the intentions and rhetoric of the leadership of both the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to fight corruption wherever there is one. But I think both parties have failed miserably in this endeavor. Indeed, some of the scholarships I have investigated clearly depict the lack of understanding of our development needs and how scholarships can be directed and targeted at those areas to maximize our opportunities as a people. What economic sense does it make to sponsor individuals to undergo a graduate degree program in “Gender Studies” when the amount of money spent on such individual could educate more than 10 students in the same discipline in our local universities? It is even preposterous to sponsor individuals in academic disciplines where citizens on their own volition have sponsored themselves in those areas and upon graduation couldn’t find job back home.

4. I would like to state categorically that the award Ghana Government Scholarships have been fraudulent, and I am calling on the august house of parliament to set up a non-partisan committee to investigate the award of GETFund scholarships covering the last 11 years (8 years of President Kufour’s NPP administration and 3 years of President Mills’ administration. Members of this committee should be chosen from the Students Representative Councils (SRC) of Ghanaian universities, academicians the clergy, and members of parliament. Are we getting the maximum for our money that we are spending? The way we are offering GEtFund scholarship, surely this were not the ways Malaysia, Singapore or China sent their brilliant students to the western world to study. These students are back home and are taking leadership roles in these emerging economic giants or nations. In the meantime to really demonstrate their credentials and tenets for democracy, I am calling on the NPP government and current NDC government to create a website or release immediately to the public the following matrix which is a basis for process evaluation.

Sample of Matrix Table Name of recipient Course of study Amount of Scholarship Duration of Studies Outcome Present Location of recipient

John Doe Anthropology US$70, 000 2 years Graduated Yes No Uknown, working with GES, etc

5. I call on Foreign Embassies and High Commissions in Ghana to cooperate in this endeavor. They will need to provide information on recipients of these scholarships for the past 11 years. With this, even the destruction of documents by individuals at the helm of affairs to cover-up can be exposed.

6. I have taken the first step, but I consider it a giant leap. Others have labored and we enjoy their glory, it is now our call to protect their gain, better yet to add to their toil.

Yours in the service of the nation, Prosper Yao Tsikata

Columnist: Tsikata, Prosper Yao