Members of Parliament have strongly condemned the Ministry of Finance for refusing to release money as mandated by law to the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) to carry out its functions of helping to improve educational infrastructure in the country.
The MPs were commenting on the report of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament on the performance audit report of the Auditor-General on GETFund-funded projects in public tertiary institutions yesterday.
The report itself indicted the Ministry of Finance for impudently breaching section 4 of the GETFund Act, 2000 which specifically requires the Finance Minister to pay two-and-half percent of VAT to the GETFund accounts within 30 days after its collection.
So far, the Ministry of Finance has not abided by the law and the monthly disbursement of the funds has always been in arrears between two and nine months since 2005.
The MPs said the situation is seriously affecting the capacity of the GETFund Secretariat to release money to fund ongoing projects in the country’s tertiary institutions, noting that many of these projects are at a standstill.
The MPs therefore asked the Ministry of Finance to release funds timely to the GETFund as mandated by law to avoid any embarrassment.
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Sekondi, Papa Owusu-Ankomah, who was once a Minister of Education under the NPP government, said it is unfortunate that the mandate of the GETFund is gradually being changed to satisfy political ambitions of governments in power.
According to him, funds for GETFund were to be solely used for educational infrastructure but the present government can direct that GETFund money be used to fund GYEEDA programmes or projects, which is also affecting the ability of the GETFund Secretariat to complete projects in the educational sector.
The PAC report revealed that the inability of GETFund Secretariat to pay contractors on time was also causing financial loss to the state in the form of interest payments as affected institutions pay interests equivalent to the prevailing commercial rates for delayed payments.
It gave specific examples that the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) had to pay an extra GH¢96,560 as interest on the original cost for the construction of an examination hall, while the Kumasi Polytechnic coughed up a whooping GH¢847,917 as interest for delayed payment for the construction of an academic complex in the polytechnic.
According to the requirements, payment to contractors must be effected 28 days after contracts have been awarded but payment could delay between three months and six months and within that time, cost of inputs could rise, thereby affecting the total cost of the project.
The MP for Atwima Mponua, Isaac Asiamah, suggested that officials who refuse to pay contractors on time must be surcharged to serve as a deterrent.
By Thomas Fosu Jnr