By Conan Businge and Carol Natukunda
The judicial probe of inquiry into the running of free education has recommended that sanctions be imposed against top officials in the Public Service and Local Government ministries for creating ghost pupils and teachers.
The commission unearthed a plan to defraud the Government of large sums of money in form of false salary arrears, claims, inflated salary scales for both ghost teachers and those genuinely in service.
The probe, instituted by President Yoweri Museveni in 2009, wants all officials responsible for creating ghosts to face sanctions. The officials include head teachers, district education officers, inspectors of schools, commissioner of education, Uganda computer services and public payroll managers.
The report explains that head teachers and the public service ministry which allots Personal numbers for teachers and computer services of the finance ministry, are the perpetrators of ghost teachers.
The report found the Education Information Management System operations wanting, Government White Paper of 1992 outdated and irrelevant, ghost pupils, teachers and head teachers in the system, massive absenteeism in schools, shoddy constructions and a lot of wastage through pupils’ repetition and failure of final examinations.
The same probe also unearthed ineffective inspection of schools, diversion of funds and flouting of Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets guidelines in awarding construction contracts.
Absenteeism was found very high, with about 21% pupils and 25% of the teachers missing school. This, according to the report, is causing the system financial losses annually in capitation grant and salaries.
On wastage of funds, the report says despite the policy of automatic promotion, 8.9m children had repeated classes from Primary One to Primary Seven between 1998 and 2010.
The same report explains that there was wastage on pupils who failed Primary Leaving Examinations and those that were not able to transit to the next level, since they were not employable before making 18 years.
The report says that trillions of shillings could have been lost in the last one-anda half decade of free education in the country.
The probe came after the Government realised that there were many ghost pupils, teachers and schools in the education system and that funds were being misappropriated. More so, the quality of education in Government schools was wanting.
Who was being investigated?
The Commission has been investigating over 100 local governments, which are responsible for 70% of the sector’s expenditure.
The commission was also probing the ministries of finance, public service, chief administrators’ offices and district service Commissions in regard to the creation of ghost teachers, schools and learners in primary and secondary schools. The education ministry was being probed in regard to secondary schools.
The commission had also been tasked to investigate the process of disbursing funds to the districts and schools, including the use and adequacy, on top of the causes of absenteeism and the utilisation of funds in the construction of government schools.
During the investigations, there were issues of conflict of interest of the officials on the probe; a matter which even ended up in court. But, the court overruled the petition filed against two of the commissioners.
The probe has taken over two years, following its establishment in November 2009. The commission had so far got three extensions, with the approval of President Yoweri Museveni, on whose order it was created.