By Conan Businge
The Government is estimated to have lost about sh400b under free primary and secondary education last year, due to shoddy construction works and absenteeism of pupils, teachers and head teachers.
Losses due to absenteeism were estimated at about sh85b annually, while those due too shoddy constructions were worth sh329b in 2011.
The report, which was submitted to President Yoweri Museveni by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry last week, revealed that sh13b was wasted in capitation for pupils, who did not attend class, sh54b on teachers and sh20b on head teachers who absconded from duty.
According to the report, 21% of the children were absent on the day of the survey in the 570 schools sampled.
“Absentee pupils (as opposed to drop-outs) were identified during the head count. Of the total enrolment of 333,598 pupils in a (sampled out area), a total of 263,093 were present, while 70,505 were absent. The commission observed that the 21% absenteeism is representative of the national absenteeism rate.
The commission assumed that with the national UPE enrolment figure of 7.17 million pupils (by then), an estimated capitation grant is wasted annually on absent pupils, equivalent to sh13b.
More so, 25% of the teachers were found absent. On assumption that 120,876 teachers are the workforce on the payroll, it would mean that 20,219 teachers were not working. This means that sh54b was being wasted annually, according to the report.
It was also found that 37% of head teachers were absent and with 11,000 UPE schools, it meant that on an average monthly salary of sh550,000, the wastage accumulated to sh20b a year.
The commission recommended that: “The education ministry’s permanent secretary (PS), commissioner of basic education and assistant commissioner for pre-primary and primary education, be investigated.”
Francis Xavier Lubanga, Dr Daniel Nkaada, Ms Resty Muziribi and Tonny Mukasa are being accused of diverting UPE funds to private and community schools, contrary to the Government Policy on school funding.
The commission wants the PS and the commissioners to be investigated on some on the funds sent to schools, under the emergency construction and rehabilitation project, presidential pledges and community support.
Lubanga explains that some of the funds, like in the case of St. Gyavira Mwererwe Nursery School, were released with the approval of Parliament and that funds for some of the other cases mentioned, like St. Steven Nursery and Primary, Cissy Mukanga Primary and Bishop Maraka Memorial School, were transferred, following the presidential pledges and the private-public-partnership policy.
The contracts committee of the ministry, with a representative of the Solicitor General, awarded a construction contract to Kavule Investments Ltd.
The Auditor General confirmed the structure of the conditions of the contract and that it was well-applied.
However, the commission says the award of the contract was illegal and did not follow the right procedure.
Meanwhile, the commission also unearthed ghosts in schools, created mainly by head teachers. These were discovered after comparing the official enrolment given by the school administrators, with the headcount results. The commission found a variance of about 21.6% of the enrolled students, who were suspected to be ghosts.
The ghosts were also found unevenly distributed among classes. Ghosts were more pronounced in Primary One and lowest in Primary Seven.
It was also noted that there is a sophisticated pattern of fraud in terms of false salary arrears’ claims, higher salaries than those set on scales and false salaries paid to teachers’ accounts, with the public service and the computer services section of the Ministry of Finance as principal architects.
There were also instances of ghost schools. The commission found some schools, which had been declared closed in internally displaced people’s camps in Moyo, still on the Ministry of Public Service’s tuition establishment register for primary schools.