The Ghana Education Service (GES) says it has detected anomalies in the payment of the legacy arrears of teachers which will lead to the payment of GH¢11.3 million in excess.
Consequently, it says there was the need to do further auditing before the funds were paid.
The amount relates to the legacy arrears of 1,847 teachers some of whom were to be paid on underserved ranks.
Some of the names have no personal records on the GES payroll to justify any arrears, some are also not owed but were credited with up to GH¢58,000 for a single person, with some female staff penciled to be paid night watchmen allowances among others.
The management of the GES has therefore described the strike by the teacher associations as illegitimate as the two parties had been duly informed and meetings held to engage them on the issue.
Read also: Teachers declare strike over legacy arrears
Meanwhile Graphic Online has gathered that the leadership of various teacher unions representing teachers who have declared a strike beginning Monday, December 9, 2019, over the arrears accrued between 2012 and 2016 are divided over the latest action.
Part of the leadership of the three unions, Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) and Coalition of Concerned Teachers (CCT) feel that issues are being politicized overly.
The division was because the government was trying to clear what was accrued at the time it was not in the office.
Apart from the division among the leaders, certain members are claiming that their leadership was more or less blackmailing the government.
In what appears to be bad faith, some of the teachers who spoke to Graphic Online said the GES’s statement has come out to expose the unions bad faith whilst negotiations were ongoing to clear the arrears.
The unions’ members are worried as to why their leaders would not fight for them between 2012 and 2016 but have decided to fight the very government that was working to settle them.
The GES in its statement released on Thursday night said it was shocked at the decision by the three teacher unions to embark on a strike on Monday over supposed delays in the payment of their arrears.
According to GES, the industrial action declared by the teachers is illegal and ‘grossly an abuse of the principle of good faith and good working relations”.
The teacher unions — the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) and the Coalition of Concerned Teachers (CCT) declared a strike after suspecting that their arrears have been verified and approved for payment by the Controller and Accountant General’s internal audit unit, yet the monies have not been released.
But in the GES statement, the Service argued that it has held a series of meetings with the leadership of the teacher groups where it discussed the payment of the said arrears with the modalities involved adding that a December 5 ultimatum given by the teachers was not realistic.
“It is therefore with utmost shock that management has learnt of the purported declaration of the strike and states that the conduct of the Union leaders is grossly an abuse of the principle of good faith and good working relations which have been established and nurtured over the years.”
“Management wishes to indicate that the strike cannot be legitimate, especially of personnel who are not owed any arrears of salary and call on all to remain and go about the normal duties as all efforts are being made to effect the payments to only deserving staff as soon as practicable,” GES added in the statement.
The statement indicated that critical scrutiny of the data presented by teachers showed anomalies which would have led to excess payment of about GH¢11,300,376.
It is on the back of this that, the GES directed that the data should be audited to verify the authenticity of the payments in order to ensure that only deserving staff are paid the right amounts of monies due them
Also, the Service alleged that, the teacher unions walked out of a meeting with the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations over the same issue.
“Management is of the view that public funds cannot be dissipated to undeserved persons and is working hard to clean the data to ensure that only deserved persons are paid by the Christmas as agreed with the conduct of the Union leaders at the meeting on December 2, 2019”, parts of the statement added.
Those present at the December 2, 2019 meeting included Mrs. Gifty Apanbil, Deputy General Secretary, who was acting as General Secretary of GNAT at the time, Mr. Thomas Moussa, newly elected General Secretary of GNAT, Mr. Eric Carbonu, NAGRAT President and Ms. Vida Agyemang, Women’s Organizer of CCT,
At that meeting, management of GES and the teacher unions agreed that data for teachers should be vetted and only those eligible for payment should be paid with the right amounts paid.
Again, it was agreed that all efforts were to be made to finish the vetting and the personnel involved paid the right amounts before Christmas.
It was also agreed that the earlier indicated deadline of December 5, 2019 could not be realistic.
The GES statement signed and issued by the Director-General, Professor Kwasi Opoku Amankwa said the arrears being referred to as ‘legacy arrears, dated back to 2012 and 2016 when the government decided that it would pay only three months of any salary arrears owed public sector workers, and the rest paid only after proof is shown.
He said the government had since 2017 paid 87,556 and the unions are fully aware of this.
The GES has therefore expressed shock and surprise that the teachers had declared an indefinite strike.
Over 300,000 first and second cycle school teachers across the country say effective Monday, December 9, 2019, they will lay down their tools over the failure of the government to pay the legacy arrears due members.
According to the teachers who belong to the three main teacher unions, the legacy arrears spanned the period 2012-2016.
The unions announced their decision to embark on the industrial action at a press conference in Accra on Thursday (December 5, 2019).
Addressing the press on behalf of the unions, the President of GNAT, Ms Philippaa Larsen, said on Friday November 28, 2019, they were invited to a meeting by the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, the Ghana Education Service (GES), the Controller and Accountant General and the Ghana Audit Service.
“The subject for discussion was the legacy arrears which spanned the period 2012-2016. Primarily, we the unions were concerned with the payment of the said arrears because our checks had revealed that the arrears had been verified and approved for payment by the Controller and Accountant General’s Internal Audit Unit, about three weeks earlier.
“However, we were informed that when the verified data was handed over to the GES for review and action, the GES would not budge, because it claimed some discrepancies had been discovered with some of the payment already effected,” she said.
According to Ms Larsen, the GES claimed that some teachers were paid on ranks they were not on and that other teachers had no personal records on the payroll between 2012-2014.
Moreover, she said the GES indicated that some teachers were not owed any arrears yet they were credited with huge amounts of money.
“Some teachers were employed as pupil teachers but were paid as senior superintendents. Some female employees were to be paid night watchman allowances,” she said the GES claimed.
The unions, Ms Larsen said disagreed vehemently with the reasons stated by the GES “since we believed the inputs had been done by a professional entity for the resultant payments to be effected, and had been sanctioned by the Controller and Account General’s own Internal Audit Unit”.
Reading the statement of the unions signed by the President of NAGRAT, Mr Eric Angel Carbonu, the President of CCT, Mr King Awudu Ali and the General Secretary of GNAT, Mr Thomas Musah, the President of GNAT said the unions subsequently gave the employer up to December 5 to pay all the arrears due teachers, failure of which they (unions) would advise themselves.
The unions, she said were not prepared to see teachers suffer as a result of the negligence of any person or body.
“As we talk to you this moment, our plea has fallen on deaf ears and the status quo remains. We can’t continue to tolerate this. Indeed, for how long shall they ignore our members, the teachers, the purveyors of education and expect us to look on unconcerned? We cannot stand this anymore”.
Throwing light on the issue, the CCT President said by law if the Ghana Audit Service vetted a financial document and passed it for payment, there was no other body except the court of law that could discredit such payment.
“By the laws of this country …if the audit service says that Mr A is to be paid B amount and it has vetted it, once you have a problem with it yours is to go to the court. So we do not understand the reason after the audit service has done a validation and it has passed the figures for payment, the GES, controller or whatever agency would think that the money should not be paid,” he said.