How Ghanaian politicians benefitted from a national scholarship for the needy

Ghana’s Auditor-General has lambasted the GETFund for “unlawfully” giving more than $4.7million as scholarships to persons who do not qualify for the financial assistance.

Getfund beneficiaries

The report mentioned some 86 beneficiaries which included “Members of Parliament, politicians, media practitioners, lecturers, heads of institutions and associates.”

The report stated that the Labour and Employment Minister, Ignatius Baffour Awuah, received a scholarship to study at the University of Portsmouth for a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Politics. He was given over £24,000 to cover his living expenses and tuition.

The Deputy Majority Leader, Sarah Adwoa Safo, who is a daughter to one of Ghana’s rich philanthropists, Apostle Kwadwo Safo, was also given $29,000 to attend a conference at the Harvard Kennedy School.

The Education Minister, Matthew Opoku Prempeh, obtained a scholarship to study “National and International Security” at Harvard University in the US. It cost the taxpayer $24,000.

The Auditor-General’s report which covered 2012 to 2018 said;

“GETFund administered scholarships (local and foreign) even though it did not have the mandate to do so. The amount of money spent on foreign scholarships could have paid for many more Ghanaians to gain tertiary level education as intended by the Act.”

“Very disturbing is the fact that gifted, but needy students ended up borrowing from the student’s loan scheme or elsewhere while officials who are highly placed in society took the scholarships not even for their wards, but for themselves,” the report added.

The report said the selection process of beneficiaries was “unfair”, “haphazard” and largely at the discretion of the GETFund administrator.

The Auditor-General stated that the poor management of the GETFund started in 2009 after the fund stopped giving money to the Scholarship Secretariat, which is the recognised institution for scholarships.

The report said that infringed on Section 2(2b) of the GETFund Act, 2000 (Act 581).

To award a scholarship, the GETFUND had to set up systems to ensure fairness. However, it did not do that, hence, infringing on the Financial Administration Act, 2003, (Act 654).

This caused the GETFUND to inefficiently spend GHC1.8 million of public funds from 2012 to 2018.

It also led to a process that was “non-structured, unfair, dominated by one person and porous. This allowed unqualified applicants to benefit rather than brilliant but needy Ghanaians.”

In the report the Auditor-General found that the “GETFund Secretariat had no policy on eligibility, as a result, granting of scholarships were based on the discretion of the Administrator.”

“We noted that GETFund Secretariat from 2012 to 2017 did not advertise scholarship applications,” the report added.

It added that in most cases a note on a card from a politician was enough to get one a scholarship.

The report added that while other scholarship-awarding institutions often monitored the academic progress of their students and requested for academic reports, the “GETFund Secretariat did not request in its sponsorship letters for schools to submit progress reports to enable them to monitor the academic progress of scholarship beneficiaries for continuous sponsorship”

Of the over 2,000 students awarded, only four voluntarily submitted reports.

Exceeding yearly budget

Parliament approved GHC1.69million for the GETFund secretariat from 2012 to 2018. However, the fund spent over GHC4.25m on scholarship beneficiaries.

“In administering the scholarships, the GETFund consistently exceeded its yearly budget by an average of 215.9% from 2012 to 2018.”

The Auditor-General said they expected the Board of Trustees to serve as a check on the GETFund boss but they failed.

“We expected the Board to query the Administrator for dominating the selection process. Instead, the Board sat aloof and allowed the Administrator to use his discretion to award scholarships and deplete the allocation for scholarships.”

“The Board did not implement its intention to streamline scholarship award.”

However, the Education Minister has denied taking any scholarship since he assumed office. He reportedly took the scholarship when he was only a Member of Parliament in 2014.

The GETFUND has also defended their decisions saying the scholarships are not limited to only brilliant and needy students.


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