Fraudulent payment for school placement traced to Minister of Education’s access

Fraudulent payment for school placement traced to Minister of Education’s access. A fraudulent payment for enrolling a student in a category “A” school in 2022 was linked to the education minister, Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum’s login access.

Prof. Kwasi Opoku-Amankwa, who was the Director-General of the Ghana Education Service (GES) at the time of the placement and the meeting of the Ministry of Education’s investigative committee to look into allegations of corruption in the school placement, stated as much in his testimony.

Prof. Opoku-Amankwa was one of only two people who had unrestricted access to the computer system and could assign students to category “A” Schools or accept their assignment.

To prevent payment of money for placement into category “A” schools, access to protocol placement into the most elite senior high schools was restricted to the Minister of Education and the Director General of the GES.

The Ministry of Education established a committee when this restriction failed to deter corruption in Ghana’s most prestigious schools. The committee was established as a result of complaints made in writing by the Ministry of National Security over claims of systemic corruption.

According to the six-member committee’s report, which The Fourth Estate is the only publication to have access to, “He [Prof Opoku-Amankwa] saw [sic] an example in one of the cases that was reported, a sum of GHS7000 had been charged to place someone at Wesley Girls or Achimota School. An investigation using the system’s log report revealed that it was carried out using the Hon. Minister’s access, which was managed by Ms. Vera Amoah.

According to the report, Prof. Amankwah continued by claiming that his access to the placement system’s log port was later disabled, making it impossible for him to track down and address any further concerns.

After hearing from Prof. Amankwa, the committee spoke with Dr. Adutwum; however, the report does not mention whether or not the minister refuted the claim made by the GES Director-General that a fraudulent transaction had been linked to his account.

The Ministry of Education refuses to respond to a request for comment from The Fourth Estate made through the ministry’s public relations representative. But it also stated that it will “examine the investigative work, engage with pertinent state entities, and resolve the issues raised in a manner consistent with those raised.”

According to Prof. Opoku-Amankwa, the system is set up such that both parties can see what was done in it, including placements that were made or approved by the Minister of Education. However, he claimed that a week after the 2022 placement began, his access to the system was terminated without giving him any notice.

The school placement system’s technical consultant informed the committee that he received a memo outlining who should be given access to protocol placement on the computerized system.

The Free SHS Coordinator and the Hon. Minister both sign a note giving the consultant instructions on how to assign certain personnel protocol access.

An Assistant Research Officer in charge of procurement at the Free SHS Secretariat, Mohammed Kamel Issa, was given access to the category C schools to help resolve some of the placement issues. But two weeks after the placement process, Kamal’s access was blocked.

“The coordinator later informed him that the Hon. Minister had requested to meet him in his office at the Ministry. According to Kamel, he sought to find out from his supervisors the purpose of the intended meeting with the Hon. Minister as well as the reasons for the revocation of his access but he did not get any response from them.

“The meeting with the Hon. Minister, however, did not come on because the Free SHS Coordinator later came to inform him that the Minister did not need him again,” the report stated.

A coordinator for the CSSPS centre, Mark Sosu Mensah, explained to the committee that the students were placed into schools categorised into A, A1, B, B1 and C. He told the committee, “he was initially given access to category “B1 and was later upgraded to category B schools. His access was communicated to him verbally by the Free SHS Coordinator. According to him, it was only in 2017 that his access was officially communicated to him in writing by the Hon. Minister.”

There were also other issues of corruption that the investigative committee discovered during the interrogation. A member of the Operations team at the Free SHS secretariat, Bright Appiah Kubi, “told the committee that he got a report that a parent paid GHS20,000 for the ward to be placed in Wesley Girls to read science but because he did not have access to the log report on the system, he could not check who did that placement.”

Mr. Appiah said in the past, such as in the 2019 placement, he could log in and verify who did the placement that was paid for.

Before the Ministry of Education set up its investigative committee, Prof Opoku- Amankwa had written to the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) and the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service to investigate allegations of corruption in the placement of students into secondary schools.

The Fourth Estate understands that, following Prof. Opoku-Amankwa’s request, the NIB initially agreed and started the investigation, but exactly one month later, it wrote to the GES Director General, asking him to redirect his request to the CID.

The Fourth Estate sources say these investigations were stopped by “powers from above.” Prof. Opoku-Amankwa could not pursue this matter to the end. He was removed from office later that year.

He recently emphasised this in an interview with The Fourth Estate when he said: “If there is fraud in the matter, then I, as the Director-General, and the minister should take responsibility. I fully accept and agree, but I knew that I was part of it and I wanted to actually make sure that there were no challenges with it.”

Even while in office, Prof Opoku-Amankwa told the GES Committee that he could not “fully absolve himself from any issues of corruption because he delegated his access to one of his officers to do the work for him. He, however, went on to say that one good thing about the system is that anytime someone logs in with his credentials, he gets a notification alert to enable him to inquire into what was being done.”

Although the security agencies and the Ministry of Education’s committee did not uncover those behind the alleged fraudulent payments and placements, undercover investigations by The Fourth Estate revealed that a network of people charged money and placed students into category “A” and the most sought-after category “B” senior high schools in the country.

The Fourth Estate worked and then liaised with the police to arrest eight persons who are standing trial. None of them works at the Ministry of Education, Ghana Education Service, CSSPS Secretariat or the Free SHS Secretariat.

The Fourth Estate also found that protocol placement into the category “A” schools after payments were done could only be approved by the Minister of Education and the Director General of the GES.

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