The Ghana School Feeding Programme’s National Secretariat has denied what it described as erroneous accusations by some caterers that the program’s handlers paid 12.9 million Ghana cedis to 510 ghost schools in the 2019/2020 academic year.
The caterers, who claim to be members of the ‘Ghana National School Feeding Caterers Association,’ claimed that their independent investigations had unearthed the purported phantom schools across Ghana’s 16 districts.
The charges of ghost schools and payment of money to ghost caterers, according to Mr Siiba Alfa, Public Relations Officer of the Ghana School Feeding Programme, are completely incorrect, misdirected, and misleading.
He described it as a planned attempt by Ms Caroline Aboagye, a caterer from the Central Region, who has teamed up with certain nefarious elements bent on sabotaging the GSFP’s hard-won reputation.
At a news conference in Accra, Ms Aboagye, the PRO of the Ghana National School Feeding Caterers Association, characterized the GSFP management, led by Mrs Gertrude Quashigah, as corrupt.
Mr Alfa, on the other hand, was disappointed by what he described as Ms Aboagye’s and her group’s obscene name-calling and tribal intolerance directed towards Mrs Gertrude Quashigah, whom he described as a motherly figure to all of the program’s personnel and caterers.
In response to Ms Aboagye’s call for President Akufo-Addo to fire the GSFP National Coordinator, as well as all other national and regional staff, over allegations of corruption, Mr Alfa insisted that Ms Aboagye’s allegations clearly demonstrate how ignorant she is about the school feeding program’s operations.
According to him, the GSFP, like any other government agency, is subjected to regular audits by competent state agencies, and the Secretariat has never been implicated since Mrs Quashigah took office.
“We have a highly clear payment process that follows conventional government finance procedures,” he said. As a result, the feeding component of the program has its own account at the Bank of Ghana, which is held in the name of the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection (MoGCSP). The GSFP’s National Secretariat only facilitates payment by coordinating the process, which includes the Ministry of Finance, the Controller and Accountant General’s Department, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, and finally, the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS), which electronically transfers feeding grants to caterers on their e-zwich cards.”
Mr Siiba Alfa went on to say that the GSFP’s National Secretariat does not view, handle, or disburse feeding subsidies, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the organization’s leadership to divert funds intended for feeding to be utilized for private gain.
As a result, he challenged Ms Aboagye to produce proof of the purported payment of 12.9 million cedis to non-existent caterers, as well as the account details of those caterers and how much they received individually.
“It is not enough for people making these allegations to spew rubbish without providing more and better details to validate their claims,” he says.
He also emphasized that the GSFP’s current leadership is neither corrupt nor inept. For the first time in the history of the school feeding project, the PRO boasted, the administration was able to save almost 27 million Ghana cedis from non-cooking days in the first term of the 2021 academic year, and the money was correctly notified to the necessary authorities.
He also mentioned the many changes and initiatives implemented by the current GSFP leadership, such as providing practical nutrition and innovation training to all caterers and head cooks across Ghana; increasing beneficiary pupils from 1.6 million in 2016 to 3.4 million; employing 10,850 caterers in 10,832 schools across all 260 districts; developing the GSFP bill; and developing new GSFP programs.
Mr Alfa was perplexed as to why Ms Aboagye couldn’t even acknowledge one of the National Coordinator’s accomplishments, preferring instead to accuse her of lying.
He stated that the GSFP Management was always willing to cooperate with any investigation conducted by competent agencies into the allegations levelled against the Secretariat.