By Mary Karugaba
She is the brightest girl in her class. But Susan Kusiimwa, in Primary Four at Kakumiro Primary School in Kibaale, only managed to attend 20 mathematics and 25 English language lessons last term.
Under normal circumstances, she should have attended a minimum of 50 lessons in each of these subjects. But blame it on the teachers who were not teaching. At this school, like all others under free primary education programme, there is no value for money.
Much as sh500b was disbursed for Universal Primary Education (UPE) as capitation grant for the last three financial years, the quality of primary education remains wanting and there is no proper accountability.
A report on the ‘Value for Money audit’ on the management of UPE capitation grant indicates that despite the investment in the programme, completion rate remains below 55%, while performance of pupils in Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) is still dismal.
“An analysis of the PLE results for academic years 2006 to 2010 revealed that, most pupils were passing in Division Two and Three, and the number of pupils who failed were more than those who passed in Division One,” the report states.
The auditors attributed the low performance at PLE to absenteeism of pupils and teachers, limited scholastic materials and inadequate classrooms, teachers and desks. The auditors further attributed the low performance in the usage of capitation grants to poor monitoring by ministries of education, finance and local government.
The report says that although UPE guidelines require the Inspectorate departments of the ministry of finance and that of local government to periodically monitor and evaluate UPE implementation and submit reports; none of the above was carried out during the period under review.
“Although inspection visits were carried out on all government programmes, there were no matters relating to UPE capitation grants raised in the reports,” the auditors said.
The auditors quoted officials from the finance ministry’s inspectorate department, as saying that the supervision and monitoring was not done because it was not their mandate.
The auditor general recommended that UPE monitoring and evaluation guidelines, be reviewed to regulate how often the Ministry of Education should carry out monitoring and supervision.
That chief administrative officers at the districts should ensure that district inspector of schools prepare and submit inspection work plans and reports to the directorate of education standards.
He further recommended that the directorate of education should not release inspection funds to districts, which fail to submit their work plans and report on time.
The report indicates that although UPE guidelines require the districts to submit the accountability for UPE funds to the permanent secretary of the education ministry on or before the last working day of the month, many districts did not abide by the regulations.
It was noted that of the 24 districts visited, only 12 submitted their accountability on time.Kampala and Bududa districts never submitted accountability at all yet they continued to access UPE funds in all the quarters.
The auditors expressed concern that failure to submit accountability on time delays school activities and fund release. They recommended that head teachers should ensure timely submission of UPE grant accountabilities to districts education officers to enable timely processing and disbursement of funds to their schools.
Late disbursement of funds
The auditors discovered that sh41b was released to the districts by the Ministry of Finance without advice from the education ministry. Some sh12b was released to the districts even when there were no annual work plans, budget requests and reports.
“Even the manner in which the funds were released was contrary to the guidelines, which require that funds to be released twice in every quarter. In the first quarter, only sh4b was budgeted, but the finance ministry released sh9b resulting into overfunding of sh5b,” the report states. The auditors also noted that there was underfunding of sh2b for the period under review.
Although the report indicates that UPE guidelines require that all districts and the Local Government release funds to schools within the first week of receiving it from the ministry, most of the districts do not abide by this regulation.
According to the report, districts whose funds were delayed include Bushenyi, Mbarara, Masaka, Nebbi and Rukungiri with the longest at 55 days for Mbarara district. The delay, according to the report, was attributed to laxity by the district officials, to process and transfer funds to schools’ accounts.
As an irregularity, the auditors discovered that most districts were planning and budgeting for UPE capitation grants basing on pupil enrolment, which were not verified by the sub-county chiefs.
Doreen Katusiime, the education ministry’s undersecretary and also the accounting officer, said although she agrees with most of the findings in the report, a lot has since changed.
“The audit was done in 2011 and since then, many things have changed. We have intensified monitoring and supervision. We do headcounts to ensure that the money we send is equivalent to students,” she says.
She further explains that unlike in the past where capitation funds were being sent through districts head offices, they are now sent directly to schools’ accounts.
Katusiime said although a number of issues have been raised on UPE, changing the quality of education is a process. “We appreciate the findings and will take on some of the recommendations,” she said.
Katusiime said the commission of inquiry investigated the performance of UPE and made a report. The report was submitted to the President and a draft white paper was submitted to the Cabinet. They are many of recommendations, which we will implement once it is out,” she says.
However, she said, the capital grant per pupil is too small to make an impact and advises Government to increase from sh7,000 annually to at least sh12,000.