Open letter to the Director-General of GES

Tue, 2 Dec 2014 Source: Pacas, Idris

How do we identify government textbooks? I mean textbooks produced by the Government of Ghana, which are distributed freely to public schools. These textbooks carry ‘security labels’ making them uniquely different from other textbooks on the market.

In particular, Govt textbooks bear the Flag of Ghana and on top of the Flag is the phrase: GHANA GOVERNMENT PROPERTY and below the Flag is found: STRICTLY NOT FOR SALE. These and many other features enable us to identify Govt books.

Is there any reason for labelling govt textbooks? Yes! Govt textbooks are produced with the taxpayers’ money and are STRICTLY meant to be distributed freely to public schools and perhaps to private schools on request. Accordingly, every citizen is challenged to see to it that Govt textbooks just as any other state property remain as public property and are used properly.

However, Mr Director, we are increasingly experiencing a situation where Govt textbooks are now sold OPENLY in private bookshops. This write-up draws your attention to only two out of the numerous shops I have investigated for some time now: EPP Bookshop and DELCAM FB Ltd (Nii Boi Branch).

EPP Books Services is selling a textbook titled ‘Mastering Social Studies for SHS’. The book bears all the Govt security labels (see photo attached). The aforementioned textbook is written by one Isaac AYERTEY. What triggered my 7-monthlong investigation into this book? First, the Flag of Ghana embossed on the lower right corner of the book and directly above the author’s surname has been completely covered in black paint.

On Wednesday 28/05/2014 at around 12 p.m., I contacted EPP Books Services on the ownership of book. The Marketing Dept of the bookshop said that the company was contracted by Govt of Ghana to produce the said textbook and that it (EPP Books Services) produced the books in excess of what was required. Therefore, the bookshop, according to the Marketing Dept, was permitted by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to cover the Govt labels and then sell the extra books.

The Marketing Dept even challenged me to confirm the said information from MOE. Being suspicious, I went to MOE where I was directed to the Procurement Unit. The Procurement officer (name withheld) said that the Govt of Ghana has never permitted any publisher to cover its (Govt) labels on textbooks and sell them. Asked whether MOE is aware that some bookshops are engaged in this practice, the procurement officer responded with a gargantuan YES. Asked which action has thus far been taken by the Education Ministry, he said that the issue was yet to be referred to National Security Office.

Common sense suggests to us that Govt only contracts publishers and/or authors to supply specified numbers of copies of textbooks at a given period: supplying below or above the specified quantity breeches the contract. Thus, if the Govt had specified the quantity of books it required which I believed it (the Govt) did, why should EPP print them in excess and with the excess still bearing Govt security labels? The public eagerly awaits answers from the Ghana Education Service (GES) and MOE. Also, if EPP Books Services mistakenly printed more than specified, why should the Education Ministry permit it to paint the state security labels and then sell the rest?

Interestingly, if EPP Books Services was mysteriously permitted by the Education Ministry to cover the state labels and then sell the extras, the bookshop would by now have sold all such mistakenly printed books. The reason is that the book was first printed in 2009. Six years down the line, the bookshop can never claim that it is still selling the excess books it printed. Furthermore, the 4-year SHS syllabuses based on which the book was written have since been replaced with 3-year ones. Thus, if a book was printed as far back as 2009, why should such a book still be on the market for sale? Logic supports that the author would have updated it. Here too, the public expect GES to subpoena EPP to explain.

Two other pieces of suspicious information about the textbook are as follows. The first one is that no contact numbers or email addresses are printed on the book besides the postal address of EPP Books Services. In contrast; all printing houses, publishers, distributors and authors indicate their phone numbers on their books for easy marketing. Thus, the lack of phone numbers and email/web addresses on the book increases my suspicion that it is most likely a govt textbook smuggled into a bookshop.

The second suspicious information is EPP’s logo on the back cover of the book. The logo is surrounded by the phrase ‘DISTRIBUTED BY EPP BOOKS SERVICES’. If Govt of Ghana had contracted EPP to supply it with textbooks, must EPP still emboss its logo on the said books as the distributor? Obviously, Govt contracts publishers to supply textbooks at GES headquarters. GES has a separate unit for textbook and stationery and has vehicles specially designated for distributing textbooks and stationery. Therefore, having a name of a bookshop boldly printed on a Govt textbook as the DISTRUTOR is worth investigating.

During the protracted exchanges on this book, I later had all my calls to the EPP shop unanswered. I resorted to online contacts. At their Enquiry Site, the bookshop represented by the Executive Assistant to the CEO Aaliyah D. Gibrine (aaliyahdgibrine@eppbooksglobal.com) maintained that EPP has copyright on the book. The question that the representative failed to answer is ‘If EPP has copyright on the book, why does it have to print copies with Govt security labels and then incur extra cost to cover the labels before selling the books?’

And if the Education Ministry had permitted EPP to cover the labels, how does it (Education Ministry) expect the public to fight for and protect state property? The reason is that every other bookshop gives the same explanation: MOE permitted us to cover the state labels and sell them.

The DELCAM FB Ltd incident involves Integrated Science GAST for SHS. I bought a copy from the shop at GH¢ 90.00 on 11/11/2014. On ‘Page i’ (the very first page), the label of UNIMAX MACMILLAN is embossed. On the right side of the label, the stamp, mostly likely that of Govt of Ghana, has been peeled off. Again on the lower right corner of Page 547 (the last Index page), what appears to be another stamp has been peeled off.

All the GAST science textbooks in the bookshop have those carefully ‘peeled off’ sections. Most likely, the shop owners connived with the storekeepers at GES bookshops in which case the storekeepers systematically stamped on those pages without text so that the shops can ‘clean’ such stamps easily.

The DELCAM FB Ltd is a stationery and bookshop at Nii Boi Lorry Station on the GW Bush Highway.

I am appealing to the Director General to investigate these two shops. If well executed, GES will see an end to shops selling Govt books. The public too will see an end to the claim that the state permitted us (bookshops) to cover its labels.

Long live teachers!

Idris Pacas: +233 20 91 01 53 3 & iddrisuabdulai12@yahoo.com

Columnist: Pacas, Idris