The Ministry of Education has responded to a report by The Fourth Estate, suggesting that it paid internet service provider Busy Internet, now Lifted Logistics Limited, GH¢56 million although the firm failed to fully provide internet services to some schools across the country.

The report highlighted that many schools under the government's Wi-Fi for Schools Programme had gone months, and in some cases years, without internet connectivity, even though the government had paid for the service.

The service was often slow for schools with internet connections, forcing them to rely on other providers.

This lack of reliable internet made the study of ICT particularly difficult for several schools, including Accra Academy, Labone SHS, Bolgatanga SHS, and about 50 others.

Fourth Estate indicated that though the IT coordinators of some schools reported the challenges they were facing with the Wi-Fi connectivity, Busy Internet failed to act.

However, according to the Ministry, following the hardware supply, installation of the wi-fi, maintenance, training, and testing across 1,013 institutions amounting to GH¢84 million, a recurring monthly cost was approved.

“In line with the review clause in the contract signed in 2019, an upward review of monthly recurring costs was approved by the PPA and capped to an amount not exceeding GH₵11,522,661.81 in 2023 due to the prevailing inflation, and foreign exchange rates,” the Education ministry said in a press release.

It said despite the approved amount of monthly recurring expenditure for services rendered, the Ministry only pays for the accessible dedicated internet.

“Specifically, the contract provides that the supplier shall be compensated on a pro-rata basis. The effect is that any downtime up to and exceeding half of a particular month will not be paid for.

"This means that despite the approved amount of recurring expenditure, the Ministry does not pay a pesewa if services do not reach the 50% (less than half of the month) threshold in a particular month.”

As such, the Ministry said various monitoring mechanisms, including reporting lines from ICT coordinators in schools, Wi-Fi monitoring tools, and a Network Operating Room were put in place to monitor the service connectivity.

Among other things, the Ministry stated that it helps ensure timely detection and resolution of connectivity issues in the institutions nationwide and also aids the Ministry in knowing how much of the service to pay within a particular month. 

In addition to these measures, the Education Ministry noted that the contract provides for a committee made up of MoE, GES, NaCCa and NCA to vet all invoices and certify before payment is made to Lifted Logistics Limited.

“There is also a Validation Committee set up by the Minister for Education to equally vet all invoices before payment is made to the vendor. For instance, in February 2024, despite an Invoice of GH¢6,498,827.90 submitted, the Ministry ended up paying GH¢3,637,569.20 after vetting,” they indicated.

Furthermore, the Ministry noted that it is considering terminating aspects of the contract in schools that are experiencing satellite connectivity challenges.

According to them, the “situation had been attributed to the failure of Lifted Logistics' Limited (formerly Busy Internet) to pay its providers.”

Meanwhile, the Fourth Estate indicated that despite multiple requests for information, since July 2023, the Ministry of Education has refused to provide a monthly breakdown of what it has paid Busy Internet since January 2020.

Also, the Business Lead of Lifted Logistics, Dickinson Agyapong Bempa, told The Fourth Estate that the company did not present any bill to the government of Ghana for the months it did not provide service to certain schools.

But, the Fourth Estate indicated that Accra Academy, Labone Senior High School, and Bolgatanga Girls have been without internet under the Busy Internet project for periods of up to 24 months. However, they featured prominently on a list of schools whose internet services Lifted Logistics invoiced and received payments for.

The company also received payments for St Mary’s SHS, Korle Gonno, Fafraha Community Day SHS, Ada Technical, Nungua SHS, Presby SHS, Teshie Presbyterian SHS, Ashaiman SHS, Kpedze SHS, Toase SHS, Bawku and Adugyama SHSs between 2020 and 2023 but all of these schools had no internet access for those years.

A policy advocacy organisation, Africa Education Watch, has also conducted research and found that 107 schools out of 150 visited across the country were not enjoying any benefits under the free Wi-Fi for schools project.

Read More: Free Wi-Fi: Government pays service provider GHS56m for no internet in schools

Meanwhile, the Education Ministry insisted that they are committed to ensuring value for money in all of its initiatives.

They reassured the general public of the government's dedication to improving education with the aim of achieving socio-economic transformation.

"The Ministry urges the public to disregard the erroneous impression created by this publication," they added.

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.