22 January 2013

Ghana: Calling Coordinators of Presidential Priority Projects...

In countering the NPP's "Free SHS" programme during the electioneering for December 2012 general elections, the NDC said it was not feasible, given the current paucity of space and that at least some 200 new community SHS and 10 teacher training colleges were needed for a more qualitative education at both the basic and SHS levels.

Indeed, in the heat of the campaign, a SHS in the Ashanti region was forced to disband its library and turn it into a dormitory for 85 SS1 students, because the regional director of education insisted that they be admitted, once the computerised system had allocated them to the institution. The school had earlier placed 375 JSS3 pupils that it had requested for, as the number it had capacity for.

In the last batch of ministerial nominees released at the weekend, President John Mahama named Messrs E. T. Mensah, Alban Bagbin and Cletus Avoka "to coordinate the implementation of presidential priority projects relating to the construction of 200 Senior High Schools, 10 Teacher Training Colleges and 1 Public University in the Eastern Region; the development of ultra-modern Regional and Specialist Hospitals and the development of new International and Regional Airports."

When the new 200 community SHS and 10 TTCs were first announced, The Chronicle recalled that the opposition NPP had constantly grumbled that when they were in government they built a six-room classroom block for GH¢80,000 but the NDC was building the same type of classrooms for about GH¢300,000 or thereabouts. We found it alarming that if the NPP claim was true, scarce state funds were being drained into unworthy pockets.

In our editorial of Tuesday, December 11, 2012, in which The Chronicle congratulated President Mahama on his declaration as President-elect, we recall his promise on new community SHS and urged him to investigated the NPP claim and make necessary adjustments if true, before implementing his building projects.

We had said on December 11: "If it is true that a classroom block of about 10 rooms costs GH¢300,000, how much would a community SHS comprising an administrative block, classroom block, male and female dormitory blocks, assembly hall, dining hall, library, kitchen, home science block, laboratories etc. cost? If the alleged over-inflation of the cost of erecting a basic school block is carried over into the construction of 200 SHS and TTCs, it would bankrupt the exchequer in no time."

We are yet to hear from President Mahama. However, with the constitution of the three-man committee to coordinate the implementation of the projects, we can conveniently assume that he has transferred the responsibility of looking into our query over construction costs to its members.

The Chronicle, thereforem calls on Hon Mensah, Hon Bagbin and Hon Avoka to check and confirm to the nation their findings. Contracts are always lucrative in themselves. If they are officially allowed to be padded, such padding is criminal to say the least, especially when government struggles to find money to pay for GOG-funded projects and thereby occasion long delays in completion dates.

Again, we would like to recall the last paragraph of our December 11 editorial: "This is a cause that The Chronicle would pursue relentlessly. And that is a promise."

Our position has not changed.

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