…Public Sector CEOs To Suffer …As Nana’s FREE SHS Begins To Bite                   

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) government’s chaotic implementation of the Free Senior High School (FSHS) policy, which has seen a rollout without piloting, has found its first whipping boy in public sector CEOs.

Chief Executive Officers of State-Owned Enterprises are going to have their salaries slashed to help the government make savings towards the almighty Free SHS.

The Gazette has picked up that a recent hint at the salary cuts by Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, is part of a whole bouquet of austerity measures that the NPP government will undertake, upsetting the Single Spine Salary policy, to fund Free SHS.

In the coming days, salaries of even police officers could see downward reviews, and these reviews would be done under crafty excuses, sources say.

“We currently have a mirage of remuneration schedule that we don’t quite understand. I think we need to begin to rationalize it to make it clear where remuneration ends so that it does not go beyond the presidency,” is how Ken Ofori-Atta justified the impending cuts in salaries of CEOs of SOEs.

He made the justification at a policy and governance forum in Accra earlier in the week.

According to him, consideration will be given to the various sitting allowances, board fees, as well as other related benefits.

Many people are shuddering at the thought of the corruption that such salary cuts for public CEOs will engender. Even with their current benefits, CEOs of SOEs still loot.

But seen to be a populist government more concerned about winning political points than ruling properly, the NPP government, which has just extended Ghana’s bailout with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is attempting to follow through a knee-jerk implementation of Free SHS.

Consequently, nine years after Nana Akufo-Addo first promised Free SHS in 2008, his government only announced at the 11th hour that funding source will be the Annual Budget Funding Amount (ABFA).

Interestingly, ABFA, which is the budget’s cash source from oil, has already been seen to have been spread too thin, as the government uses it to fund important programs such as construction of roads. A re-route of ABFA into Free SHS means a vacuum has been created in the budget that must be filled.

The NPP government sees a cut in the salaries of public sector workers, starting with CEOs of SOEs, as a good starting point to fill the gaps, sources say.

But people are already talking about the potential exacerbation of the problem of corruption already endemic in the public sector. Even with their current salaries, CEOs still loot the public purse.

Major concern has also been expressed on the rippling effects that reviews in public sector salaries will have on the Single Spine Salary structure which pegs the salaries of all public sector personnel.

After a lot of thought had gone into the SSS policy, its take-off had been very chaotic as various public sector worker associations jostled to have better conditions of services. Ken Ofori-Atta’s upcoming tinker with the SSS potentiates another round of chaos.

And the NPP government has been constrained to rock the boat because of its populist implementation of the Free SHS program, which is totally rushed. An ass-backward execution has seen the Ministry of Education appoint an offshore ambassador and a logo for the program, without implementation manual or blueprint

Worst, the NPP’s version of Free SHS was not piloted, leading to a chaotic take off that portend even more serious problems in future. A misplacement of students by a computer placement system, with some students being placed in schools for the deaf and blind even though they are neither deaf nor blind, is a novelty in the 11 years that the system has been in place.

Less than two weeks into the implementation of Free SHS, national broadsheet, Daily Graphic, has already reported that syndicates have arisen, charging parents astronomical amounts to have their wards placed in so-called first-class schools.

Graphic reports that, for instance, a parent who spoke on condition of anonymity said she paid GH¢2,500 to get her daughter into one of the prestigious girls’ schools.

Even so, she told Graphic she would decline to testify before the GES for fear that her daughter could become a victim.

Another parent is reported to have said that an officer of the GES requested her to pay GH¢2,500 each for her twins but she could only pay GH¢1,000 each, adding that some parents were even prepared to pay GH¢3,000 and more.

Asked whether her children had not been placed at all, she said the boy was yet to be placed, but the girl had been placed in a technical school in the Eastern Region but she was not pleased with that.

“Another highly placed source told the Daily Graphic that the syndicate was working with officials of the GES, especially those at the Computerized Schools Selection and Placement System (CSSPS) Secretariat, to undermine the free senior high school (SHS) policy of the government,” Daily Graphic reported.

Earlier in the week, Accra-based Joy FM had also reported that students who have been placed in schools in the Ashanti Region have been constrained to rent hostels, at astronomical cost to parents, because the schools do not have enough room in their boarding facilities to accommodate such students.

What is interesting is that all these problems were avoidable – the NPP government would have easily scaled these difficulties if it had continued with a rollout roadmap that the erstwhile National Democratic Congress (NDC) government had set in place before leaving office.

The NDC started Free SHS on a pilot basis in November 2014. As a component under the Secondary Education Improvement Programme (SEIP) which was supported by the World Bank with a facility of $156 million, the NDC’s version had started with 10,400 beneficiaries from 125 public senior high schools.

With the NPP winning the elections in 2016, it was expected that the new government would continue with the progressive implementation of the program by the NDC. However, a populist attempt to create the impression that Free SHS is being introduced by the NPP in 2017 has seen the government vandalize the progressive roadmap, re-launching the whole policy.

In the hurry, the NPP government has hired an Ambassador for the program, along with a logo, but has forgotten to put together a comprehensive implementation plan and blueprint.

The program has also been rolled out without piloting leading to problems.





Source: Stan Adotey

The Republic News Online

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