By Maxwell Ofori .
The Minister for Education, Matthew Opoku Prempeh, has indicated that matters arising from Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) funds leave him with serious worries.
According to him, there are several complaints about how improperly funds accrued from the PTAs are expended, and some school children being barred from writing examinations because they owed PTA dues.
He was perturbed that basic school, though ordinarily supposed to be free, some people, under the guise of PTA Chair, uses the association’s funds as if they were their personal revenue.
In the process, they begin to have issues, should the headmaster or headmistress stand on his or her feet for the right thing to be done, the Minister further explained.
“This issue gives me worries. PTA, it gives me serious worries. It’s a source of veritable malfeasance,” NAPO told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament yesterday.
The Committee is currently having its public hearings on the 2016 Auditor General’s Report. Yesterday was the turn of the Education Ministry.
The Auditor General’s report had cited an irregularity, where the PTA Chairman of the Ghana Education Service (GES) Model Nursery was the only signatory to the association’s account.
However, the new Headmistress told the committee that the Chairman was no more in the school, so the issue was being resolved to ensure that not only one person signed to cash out funds of the PTA.
Sounding worried, the Minister for Education said that treating PTA dues as public funds allows a certain bad behaviour.
“This is a basic school, and, if as MPs, you visit the basic school, it is the poorest of the poor who have their kids in the basic school, and it is really creating a lot of problems about access to education in this country.
“When you go to the district, and the basic schools it is not being looked at, as me and you here think, GH¢35 probably is nothing, but it is depriving people of going to school, and we cannot behave like ostriches.
“Mr Chairman, every school you go, accounting for this (PTA) money is a challenge, where the Headmaster hasn’t got control of this money to use as he or she deems fit. The PTA Chairman has absolutely control and doing what he or she deems fit. And to control…” he observed.
The Member of Parliament (MP) for Manhyia South, Mathew Opoku Prempeh, gave an example with the alumni of schools, which are voluntary associations, which contribute money for their Alma Mater, and asked a question on whether such monies could be described as public or private funds.
“All Old Boys and Girls in this country are voluntary Associations. They collect money; year groups, and go and benefit the schools. Do we treat that as public funds? And what is the difference between PTA and Old Boy and Old Girl Association?” he questioned.
The Minister, however, called for a critical examination of the issue, and take a stand as a nation, as to “whether we want public education to be free, or other people to benefit with this free manipulations.”
The Chairman of the Committee, James Klutse Avedzi, noted that such funds were public funds, as the association uses the students to collect them.
At the same sitting, an Accountant at the Jirapa office of the Ghana Education Service was given an ultimatum to produce receipts covering unearned salaries of over GH¢10,000 which was paid to a teacher named Dakura Thomas Aquinas.
The teacher, even though had vacated his post since August 2015, continued to draw salaries till May, 2016.
Since then, efforts to retrieve the money had proved futile. At public hearings of the Committee, an Accountant at the Jirapa office revealed that the whereabouts of Mr Dakurah were currently unknown.
This infuriated the Committee members, who issued an ultimatum to him to get in touch with the office for receipts covering the payment, or would surcharge him personally