Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Emmanuel Kwadwo Agyekum, had real ‘baptism of fire’ yesterday as the Minority Members in Parliament pinned him to the wall over the status of the Ghana School Feeding Programme which was introduced by the erstwhile New Patriotic Party (NPP) government.
He appeared in the House to answer a question bordering on the school feeding programme filed by the NPP MP for Offinso South, Ben Abdallah Banda.
The Minority Leader, Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, was particularly interested in knowing from the Deputy Minister whether the ruling National Democratic Congress’ (NDC)’s promise to expand the school feeding programme to cover all public schools in its 2008 manifesto had been revised. The question became necessary after it had emerged from the Offinso South MP’s question that out of about 30 public schools in the Offinso South Municipality in the Ashanti Region – which were benefitting under the programme before the NDC came to power in 2009 – only four were on the programme.
The Minority Leader also wanted to know why the NDC government, which said in its 2008 manifesto and the subsequent budgets that it would expand the programme to cover all public schools, had changed its position to state in its 2012 manifesto that the programme would be extended to only needy schools in the country.
The Deputy Minister, Mr. Emmanuel Kwadwo Agyekum, told Parliament in his response that between 2009 and 2013, the Ghana School Feeding Programme embarked on a ‘re-targeting programme’ and in the process, 22 new schools were chosen in the Offinso South Municipality while four of the schools under the programme before 2009 were maintained.
The Deputy Minister was bombarded with questions by the Minority as to what criteria were used for schools to benefit under the ‘re-targeting programme’ and Mr. Kwadwo Agyekum said poverty index like low literacy rate formed part of the criteria; but the Minority still wanted to know what constituted ‘poverty index.’
The Deputy Minister referred the Minority to the Ghana Living Standard Survey and said as far as he was concerned, poverty index is what is captured in the Ghana Living Standard.
This prompted the NPP MP for Manhyia South, Dr. Matthew Opoku-Prempeh, to ask him to define ‘living standard ‘ but the Speaker over-ruled that question.
Meanwhile, Mr. Agyekum had indicated that contracts had been signed for work to begin on the construction of office buildings for 18 out of the 46 newly created district assemblies.
He named the beneficiary districts as Dormaa West, Asutifi South and Banda in the Brong Ahafo Region; Ayensuano, Akwapim South and Upper West Akim in the Eastern region; Bia East, Jomoro and Bodie in the Western Region; Afadzato South and North Tongu in the Volta Region; Pusiga, Binduri and Builsa in the Upper East Region; Nandom and Daffiama/Bissie/Issa in the Upper West Region; Tatale Sanguli in the Northern Region and Kpone Katamanso in the Greater Accra Region.
This was in response to a question by the NPP MP for Kumawu, Philip Basoah, who wanted to know what plans the ministry had to construct office buildings for the newly created district assemblies. He could not however, provide the contract sum.