Finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta has provided varying figures on public spending on free upper secondary education (SHS) so far, in annual and semi-annual budget statements, a situation that civil society organizations qualified as unacceptable. they therefore ask for clarification.
In section 284 (page 49) of the 2021 mid-year budget statement, the Minister of Finance indicated that a total amount of GH¢7.62 billion had been allocated to Free SHS since 2017. Similarly, to section 60 of the mid-year statement 2022 budget, it indicated that since the launch of the Free SHS program in 2017 until the end of 2021, the government has spent a total amount of GH¢5.3 billion .
To add to this, on Sunday, June 7, 2021, during the “meet the press” press briefing at the Ministry of Information, Education Minister Yaw Osei Adutwum presented a total amount of 7.7 billion GH¢ as expenditure to date for the Free SHS program. .
This, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) called on the Minister of Finance to shed some light on the various figures mentioned in the budget statements as expenditure for free SHS as well as what the Sector Minister also provided respectively.
According to the Executive Director of Africa Education Watch (Eduwatch), Kofi Asare, these conflicting expenditure accounts on the Free SHS program with a discrepancy of over GH¢2 billion do not bode well for accountability of public funds, hence the need for clarification.
“Clarify the actual Free SHS expenditure incurred by the Government of Ghana between 2017 and 2021, and provide an explanation of the variance in Free SHS expenditure data to the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Education,” he said. -he declares.
He added that the credibility of data, especially financial data, is essential for accountability in the management of public policies, hence the need for closer collaboration between the ministries of finance and education in the management and reporting of free SHS and education expenses.
The SHS Free Food Supply
Again, in response to the mid-year budget review, Eduwatch expressed disappointment at the inability of the Minister of Finance to provide a clear intervention to address the issues identified as responsible for the food shortage.
According to Mr. Asare, while Ken Ofori Atta mentioned in section 60 of the budget that the ministry is aware of the reported difficulties in accessing and transporting food for SHS students and is working with sector agencies to address this. To remedy this, last week stakeholders were informed by the Ministry of Education, Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum that the food shortage is caused by inflation.
This is in addition to the widely recognized fact that the SHS food supply shortage is due to the accumulated debt of GH¢340 million to food suppliers, some of which dates back to last year, which prevents suppliers to continue supplying until their arrears are exhausted. been settled.
“Surprisingly, the Minister of Finance did not mention a single intervention put in place by his ministry to address the misdisbursement of funds approved for food under the Free SHS scheme, and how he intends to mitigate the inflationary effect on prices,” he said. said.
Eduwatch therefore requests more details on the specific strategies deployed by the Minister of Finance to ensure that the arrears of GH¢340 million are cleared in the short term, ensuring rapid disbursement of funds for an uninterrupted and mitigating food supply. inflationary impacts on SHS free food budget.
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