The 2018 Auditor-General’s Report has revealed several financial irregularities that have led to huge financial losses to the state in the running of the Ghana School Feeding Programme, with 81 metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) and the management of the programme blamed for the mismanagement.
Bloated enrolment figures, duplication of schools and payments of grants to non-existent caterers in the 2017-2018 academic year, as well as under-declaration of revenue from sale of application forms, according to the report, account for the huge losses running into millions of cedis.
The report accuses the 81 MMDAs of declaring only GH¢194,383.00 from an amount of GH¢1.09 million purportedly realised from the sale of 21,880 application forms sold to caterers who applied for contracts. As much as GH¢899,617 from the sale of application forms is unaccounted for and has been outstanding since 2017.
These revelations are contained in the report already forwarded to Parliament. The report also singles out the Sekyere East District for particularly padding the enrolment of the figures and manipulation of data.
The report also cited the management of the GSFP to have made unsubstantiated payment amounting to GH¢1.10 million.
“Our review of the cash book of the GSFP revealed that a payment of GH¢1.10 million to a financial institution via cheque No 24292 dated March 27, 2017, was not supported with any payment voucher and other documents,” the report added.
It also revealed that five unsupported transactions amounting to GH¢1.37 million were made by the GSFP secretariat.
“In view of the management’s failure to substantiate the total payment of GH¢1.36 million, we disallowed the expenditure and requested management to refund same, failure of which they would be surcharged,” the report directed.
Sekyere East’s culpability
In the Sekyere East District in the Ashanti Region, for instance, documents available to the Daily Graphic showed that over GH¢141,000 had been lost through padding of enrolment figures and other manipulations of data.
Findings of preliminary investigations, conducted by state agencies such as the National Security and the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) in collaboration with the GSFP Secretariat, established some infractions in seven schools in the Sekyere East District.
Portions of the report made available to the paper indicated that Ntunkumso Presbyterian Primary, which was a single school with an enrolment of 385 and one caterer as of the third term of 2017/18 academic year, had been split into three with the enrolment figure repeated thrice in the payment file.
It was also discovered at the Ntunkumso Roman Catholic Primary that although the school had 172 pupils for the period under review, the caterer was paid for 380 pupils.
"The caterer confirmed that in the second term of 2017/18 academic year, she received payment for 380 pupils instead of 172," the report indicated.
At the Senchi Methodist Primary School, it was found that the school, which runs a single stream with a population of 442 and one caterer, was duplicated in the payment file as two schools with two caterers.
The same illegality was discovered at Seniagya D/A Primary where the single stream school had been captured in the payment file as two schools and the enrolment figure inflated from 514 to 792.
"At Feyiase D/A Primary, the headmaster told the team that conducted preliminary investigations that he was new and, therefore, would not be able to furnish the team with third-term enrolment for the previous year," the report added.
The paper gathered that the state agencies were carrying out detailed investigations to bring the perpetrators to book.
The Auditor General’s Report seems to confirm the extent to which the state is losing money through financial irregularities at the GSFP and already a management person has been suspended for it.
The former National Coordinator of the GSFP, Dr Kwame Adu-Nsiah, was suspended over allegations of involvement in "fictitious deals" in the payment of caterers of the programme.
Dr Adu-Nsiah was asked to step aside from his role on December 13, 2018 after a National Security investigation reportedly implicated him in what was described as “fraudulent deals” in the running of the feeding programme.
A letter addressed to the then coordinator and signed by the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection (MGCSP), Ms Cynthia Morrison, dated December 13, 2018, accused him of inflating figures of schools under the programme.
The Daily Graphic has learnt that a three-member team was set up under the chairmanship of the Senior Minister, Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, to investigate the matter but it is yet to make its findings public.
Dr Adu-Nsiah declined to comment on the issue but indicated that he was still awaiting the verdict eight months after being asked to step aside.
Meanwhile, a source at the GSFP National Secretariat told the Daily Graphic that the suspension of Dr Adu-Nsiah was not the solution to the revenue leakages in the school feeding programme.
The source explained that a bureaucratic chain of officials at the GSFP Secretariat and the Gender Ministry were involved in building a payment file for caterers.
“The building of the payment file starts from the district level where the data on caterers and enrolment is endorsed by the metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives (MMDCEs), and forwarded through the regional coordinators to the national secretariat.
“The National Coordinator and other officials collate the data and forward it to the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, where the minister, the internal auditor at the ministry, the chief director and the chief accountant all scrutinise the data for errors.
“If they are satisfied with the data on enrolment and caterers, the chief director will jointly sign a letter with the chief accountant and send it to the Bank of Ghana to transfer money from the school feeding programme account to the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement System (GhIPSS) from where the money is paid directly to the caterers.
“So if there is over-payment, I believe that it must involve a number of officials along the chain,” the source explained.