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Opinions Sun, 25 Mar 2012

Investigate Ghana Govt Scholarships

A CALL FOR AN IMMEDIATE INVESTIGATION INTO 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 “Kayayos,” or potters 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 schorlarship, 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, MSc.; M.A; M.S.; PhD Student

A PETITION TO GHANA’S PARLIAMENT

Manifest Corruption in Land Administration in Ghana

1. In 1998, I paid US$2,500 for my first plot of land in the Ablekuma area

even as an undergraduate attending University of Cape Coast. Indentures

and all other necessary documents covering the land were provided. I was

advised by the seller to start “a small” project on the plot, so I built a

structure which encompassed a chamber and hall on it. But in no time, a second

owner emerged and pulled my structure down. The police could not help. You

may recall it was around the same time that the police lost one of their

own, Kwaku Ninja, and had no clue what was going on, or were apprehensive to

venture into that neighborhood. The man who sold the land to me, Alhaji

Bubba, was finally attacked and clubbed to death by others he must have duped

using same method. Prior to his death and right after my structure was

pulled down I tried to recover my money from him. I was able to retrieve just

about US$1000 before his death.

2. In 2005, on the recommendation of a cousin, I again paid £3000 to

another frontline man for a chief for a plot of land at Bortiano, a suburb of

Accra. This time, I took the trouble to conduct a search at the Lands

Registry after having being coerced by employees of the Department to pay advance

handling fees without which nothing could be done. Initially, I resisted

paying these unauthorized fees and complained. Further investigation

detailed the institutional corruption of collecting these illegal advance

processing fees without which nothing could be done. The results of the search at

the Lands Registry indicated the land was free. The demand for illegal

advanced fee payments alerted me to do things to protect my interest. As a

result, I kept a recorder in my pocket, unbeknownst to those involved in the

transaction and recorded every process of the transaction. Consequently, upon

purchase and receipt of the indenture, again, I was asked by the middleman

to erect a structure on the said plot. Assured that the land was free upon

getting my indenture, I erected a storefront property on the land and left

for London, United Kingdom. On my return from London, someone had gone to

erect a wall around the whole plot.

I reported the case at the Police Headquarters and the middleman was

invited. In my statement to the police, I gave the name of the woman who

facilitated the search at the Lands Registry (Tina). Sensing trouble, she tried to

disassociate herself from the whole process and vehemently denied any role

in facilitating the fraudulent search. I was, therefore, compelled to play

out my recordings to her. She immediately went on her knees to beg me for

forgiveness and the middleman also promised to refund my money. I spent the

next three months running between the Police Headquarters in Accra, home,

and other places in a never ending circle. Finally, by the time a refund

was made available, expenses on the Police, the constant depreciation of the

cedi, and other expenses had eroded a substantial part of the money. The

refund could be just about £2000. For Ms. Tina at Lands Department not doing

due diligence for the work she is being paid with tax payer’s money in

addition to demanding advance fee from me I would not have purchased the land

neither would I have spent additional time and money chasing a mirage!!!!

3. Aware of the aforementioned nasty experiences, Mr. Fui Tsikata

recommended a colleague, Mr. Mahama Adams, who is the current National Coordinator

of the Youth in Agricultural Program and a member of the current government

who has been helping people to acquire land, to assist me to find land. He

seemed genuine by all the standards and I believe that any reasonable

person would have concluded the same. He provided documents covering the said

land in 2007. Subsequently, I paid him US$800 and Gh3, 000. It must be

noted that Gh3000 at the time was more than US$3000. This was around when the

cedi was redenominated. I committed about US$8,000 into developing the land.

This was based on the understanding that he would process the

documentation transferring the property into my name in tandem with my intended

building project, as I was in a hurry to have my own place so that I could move

out of my family house. But for three years, he has played the hide and seek

with me. He finally asked that I prepare my own indenture which is contrary

to the initial verbal agreement and the understanding I had with him.

After returning to Ghana three times in three years, I managed to get a

surveyor to prepare the indenture, which I handed over to him which he would have

used to acquire my title to the land.

But excuses are never exhausted in this game of deception. I travelled

over a long distance to his house many times only to be told stories. At one

point, I met a young man by name T.T. who was supposed to transmit the

indenture to his father who is supposed to be a chief and a signatory to the

document. He took Gh100 from me as part payment to facilitate the process of

getting the indenture signed by the chiefs. After being paid the money all

subsequent calls to T.T. were no longer answered. Persistent attempts to

ensure the right things are done failed and I had to return to the United

States.

On my return trip to the US, I reached the conclusion that I would demand

my monies paid to Mr. Adams Mahama, pulled the structure down and opt out

of the transaction. I returned to Ghana again in May 2011 to pursue this

goal, insisting a refund should be based on the US$ rate at which I paid him

for the plot.

As of August 2011, Mr. Adams Mahama had failed to give me the refund due

me. Due to the incessant frustrations I encountered due to the inactions of

Mr. Mahama, I arrived at the conclusion that I needed to share my “lessons

learned” from these transactions with the general public. I followed it up

and made my intentions known to him. Whereupon Mr. Mahama contacted Mr. Fui

Tsikata, who introduced him to me, to intervene. At the said meeting, he

pleaded for a one month period to produce the document. Of my own volition,

I suggested six months moratorium within which he should produce the

document. This decision was based on a couple of factors: (i) if he could not

produce the indenture in over three years, how on earth was he going to

produce the document in a month? (ii)knowing very well that he was preparing to

contest the NDC primaries for Adenta constituency, I knew I would be blamed

for any public actions that might be perceived as damaging to his public

image and I wanted enough time to elapse to give him time to prepare for his

campaign.

However, to prove to me that he meant business, he decided to take me to

one Mr. Afottey Agbo, by then a Minister of State in the Office the

President and currently appointed as the Greater Accra Regional Minister. The

understanding was that his father was supposed to endorse the document. At a

meeting in his office, he took the documents from me and asked me to call him

in a month’s time by which time the documents would have been endorsed.

Soon after that, I returned to the United States and directed my cousin to

call him on my behalf at the appointed time to collect the indenture. But

surprisingly, Mr. Afottey Agbo intimated to my cousin he did not know anybody

by name Prosper Tsikata.

I again reported this development to Mr. Adams Mahama who continues to be

very elusive in this matter.

Through these experiences – from the chief’s palace, the land registry,

to the police station and the courts – I have realized that all these

individuals work in a league to dupe unsuspecting members of the public and the

police are very much aware of these characters and their scurrilous actions,

but like vultures, they wait to feed off the carcasses these human preys

leave in their tracks.

4. My conversations with Ghanaians revealed that both NDC and NPP have

spent millions of dollars on land reforms, but those monies must have ended

in the pockets of some officials without the problem being addressed,

otherwise what do we have to show for these reforms? This makes me ask the

question: who are we as a people? There are definitely ways or answers to the

problems which do not even require intensive capital investments from loans

for these problems to be solved, but those in leadership do not get it.

5. Listening to the President’s speech during the 2012 edition of the

independence celebration admonishing “posterity will judge us harshly,” I

believe that his call is not only to those he works with directly but to all

Ghanaians. So, I asked myself: “are we going to leave these problems of

manipulations in land administration to generations coming after us?”

Indeed, as a Ghanaian I feel very much motivated and excited by the

president’s speech exulting me to act with urgency. I consider his speech a

defining moment to act with urgency since time is not on our side as Ghanaians

if we continue to wallow in the business as usual fashion and “fame Nyame”

stupor. Like the “father for all” that he is, I believe that, just as in

real life situation in our homes, not all children obey what their parents

tell them line, hook, and sinkers. Some children have criminal tendencies

and would bring the name of their parents into opprobrium; others are

responsible and are the joy of the family. So the Bible reminds us in Proverbs

27:11: “be wise, my son, and bring joy to my heart; then I can answer anyone

who treats me with contempt.” There are other Biblical passages with similar

admonitions, but I will cap it the most profound: Psalm 2:10: “therefore,

you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth.”

6. As I began to hold discussions with individuals in preparation of this

event, it became clear to me that almost 70% of people I spoke with have

had some bad experience in their attempt to secure a piece of land for

domestic purposes. I read about problems in land administration in Ghana as a JSS

(experimental) student. When I visited Zimbabwe in 1997, I was amazed how

that country was planned and organized with address systems. My ride from

the airport to my destination took the driver only a look at the address I

provided and without any difficulties, I was at my destination. I received

my letters in the postbox at the gate where I lived, just as one would find

in any Western or developed country.

7. The point is that 55 years after independence, where inexpensive

technologies are even available through GPS systems to demarcate all lands and

keep records at the Land Registry, so that individuals can check on these

lands before making any investments in them, we have allowed these lands to be

used by criminals who have invaded the chieftaincy institutions to use

these lands to dupe unsuspecting individuals in thousands and millions of

cedis. And when these individuals even try to develop these lands, the

irresponsible government which has shirked its duty to the citizens all these years

turns around to demolish their buildings and so on. Of course all these

ignoble actions are possible because of the existing chaos in the country

regarding land acquisition, registration and title acquisition. Where chaos

exists, fraud and illegality reign supreme. Where else do we hear of

organized crime syndicate dubbed “land guards?” This egregious situation is no

longer acceptable in our country. Members of the legislative assembly and the

general public can follow an article I intend to publish on this issue on

a wider platform regarding solutions to this problem.

Indeed, these are issues beyond the handling of individuals. The state has

the capacity to engage Ghanaian experts in GPS technologies, who for lack

of opportunities back home are in many developed countries performing

menial jobs, to lead students from our Land Economy Departments and Geography

Departments of the universities to render these services to the state as

their “service learning projects,” for which stipends will be paid to them and

billed against landowners and buyers to avoid these needless

self-destructions we are being subjected to as a people.

8. Many are aware of the thousands of jobs a well-planned city holds for

its people and the millions and billions of cedis that are waiting to be

generated in the process. After all, Mr. Emmanuel Boah, the current Deputy

Minister of Energy was a post office employee at Gettysburg in Maryland in the

USA until his appointment as a minister and can attest to this. But we are

so fixated with buying airplanes and other things we ourselves have

condemned others of trying to acquire to the neglect of the truly development

issues that confront us.

9. Knowing truly well that the workings of Parliament in Ghana does not

reflect what it ought to be, whereby communities have the opportunity to make

inputs to discussions that are carried to the house, I humbly wish to find

out through the Speaker, the Majority leader, and the Minority leader, to

the newly appointed Regional Minister for the Greater Accra Region, where

land cases are hitting the roof, what he intends to do to curb the situation

and to bring sanity into land administration in the region he is being

appointed to lead. Given my personal experience with him, whereby in collusion

with his associate, Mr. Adams Mahama, they visited deception on me, I

personally do not believe that this appointment would make any difference in

this matter. I see this appointment as the usual musical chair that has been

visited on the people for a long time.

If government cannot in consultation with chiefs and traditional

leaderships provide the technology to map out lands to prevent the avoidable fraud

that is being visited on the people, then I urge communities to form

vigilante groups to protect their properties from a lawless state or government

which attempts to pull their structures down.

10. Finally, I urge Mr. Adams Mahama, the National Coordinator of the

Youth in Agriculture Program, to refund my money to me immediately and I will

pull down the structures on the plot. If he fails to heed this public call,

I will take such actions as I deem fit (sure without recourse to violence)

to get my money. But rest assured the courts and the police are out of the

equation so also is violence. I also call on all Ghanaians who have been

duped to start thinking of ways to get their money’s back. Please stay tuned

on this issue.

In the service of mother Ghana,

Prosper Yao Tsikata, MSc.; M.A.; M.S.; PhD student.

Accra, March 21, 2012

Prosper Yao Tsikata, Msc.; M.A.; M.S.

Doctoral Student, Health Communication

School of Communication

Ohio University

Athens, OH 45701

Cell: 216 - 316 - 4484

Skype: prosper.tsikata

Columnist: Tsikata, Prosper Yao