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Thursday, August 11, 2022

CSOs blame Finance Ministry for SHS food shortage

Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta

The Ministry of Finance (MoF) has been pointed out by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to be operating in the education sector as the causal agency for the shortage of food supply in Senior High Schools (SHS) for failing to release funds owed the National Food Buffer Stock Company.

The MoF, according to the disbursement plan, is supposed to release some GH₵2billion for the free SHS Programme but that has not happened yet – seven months into the year; and until that happens, the food shortage situation will continue to be a recurrent one.

According to the Executive Director of Africa Education Watch (Eduwatch), Kofi Asare, government’s indebtedness to the food suppliers of the Free SHS Programme is now over GH₵300million, with some dating as far back as 2021.

This, he emphasized, has been exacerbated by the current increase in food inflation which is hovering around 30.1 percent, with consumer inflation increasing almost four-fold to 27.6 percent, as indicated by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) May 2022 inflation data.

“Most of these suppliers are simply broke, the reason there is always a cycle of food shortage in some SHS. The current food inflation situation is compounding the situation. Until MoF is able to disburse Free SHS funds on schedule, which I don’t see happening in the medium-term, the cycle of food shortages in SHS will regrettably become a culture like the capitation grant delays,” he said.

When the B&FT sought further clarification on why the MoF should be blamed for this and not the Ministry of Education (MoE) as well, he indicated that checks have shown beyond doubt that the latter has little influence over the happenings.

“Clearly, the issue is a Ministry of Finance one. I have been in touch with the buffer stock, it is not a matter of food shortage in the country, there is so much food in Ghana. The only shortage in the food supply system is flour; apart from that, there is food.

“The Finance Ministry is not disbursing; some contractors are owed as far back as September 2021. How can they continue to supply when their money is locked up in debt? The problem is not from Ghana Education Service (GES) nor Ministry of Education,” he said.

He reiterated that until the MoF makes it a point of releasing funds to the suppliers regularly and on time, it would be difficult for this shortage issue to end since they cannot continue borrowing money to buy food stocks at huge sums for supply in the schools.

On his part, Executive Director – Institute for Education Studies (IFEST), Peter Anti, was emphatic that the basic challenge is indebtedness which is linked to financial disbursement from the MoF and so blaming the crises on them will be a plausible linkage, but he was of the concern that the MoE has not come out clearly to tell us they have not had the part of their budget allocation disbursed.

“So, for me, I will not single out MoF as being solely responsible. I will put it at the doorsteps of the MoE also, and wait for them to tell us that the MoF has not disbursed their budgetary allocation; then we know who is actually responsible,” he stressed.

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