Catching TTF ‘ghost schools’

Focus, Normal

The National, Tuesday June 9th, 2015

Newspaper headlines

The front page headline of the Sunday Chronicle (May 12, 2015) captioned: ‘K6.9m go to Ghost Schools’ should be sufficient to send shivers up our spines. 

That headline highlighted that there were 5218 ghost schools, 7000 ghost teachers and 400,000 ghost students’ must warrant an investigation.  

Another newspaper article in the Post Courier (May 7, 2015, p.4) headlined ‘Schools inflating enrolment figures’ should naturally trigger our interest to investigate.  

That news article means TFF funds would have been used to pay ‘ghost schools’ and ‘ghost students’.  

We can never know unless there is a thorough investigation conducted to verify the ‘ghost figures’.  

The Paru Aihi committee that was tasked to conduct an independent school census has unearthed the long-held school data by the department which is probably where ‘ghost holes’ have been created to channel out public resources.  

An independent data verification exercise such as this implicitly points out the need for a thorough investigation so that limited resources should not be used to fund ‘ghost schools’ where there are ‘ghost students’ who are supposedly taught by ‘ghost teachers’.

The front page headline of The National (April 12, 2015): ‘PM angry – I will sort out school fee issues’ shows that the prime minister is personally concerned that a large amount of TFF money meant for the schools are not reaching the schools fast enough or even if they did, the funds reach the genuine schools more slowly or in many cases not at all, while the ‘ghost schools’ are swiftly settled without any outcry.


Newspaper commentary

The commentary by this author in The National (February 25, 2015, p.40) ‘Gross unfairness in allocation’ was probably overlooked by the authorities. 

The table containing the commitments made to selected provinces as per the NEC decision No. 228/2014 to utilise the residual TFF funds of 2012/2013 to support quality education programmes is inserted above to specifically call for attention to the analyses of the detailed expenditure of the K7 million TFF funds. 

A detailed analysis of the commitments made to selected provinces to distribute K7m of TFF funds was done in my commentary in The National newspaper of February 25, 2015, and February 27, 2015.  

I am bringing this table of commitments back to the public domain to impress upon the authorities responsible to institute an investigation to determine whether the TFF funds committed to the 12 provinces have been properly dispensed for the sole purpose of improving quality education programme.

Some critical questions that come to mind are: 

  • Why two provinces (Simbu and Central) are allocated K2,340,000.00?
  • Are these funds really being spent on improving quality education programmes?
  • What does the detailed breakdown of the expenditure show for the funds committed to these provinces?
  • Can PNG be assured that the TFF funds (K7m) referred to in the table have not been misused, misapplied or mismanaged?


I have argued before that TFF funds spent on infrastructure development and neglecting other critical areas such as textbooks, library books, laboratory and workshop consumable, including utilities, and teacher professional development, will have negligible impact on the quality of teaching and learning which would result in poor quality education.

Schools that have threatened to close down and send students off just because their TFF funds are slow in being disbursed are most likely to be the schools that have poor performance records in terms of achieving quality education that are reflected in the pass rate.  

A comparison of such schools would no doubt confirm that they spend TFF money away from improving quality of teaching and learning.  

Again such attitude by schools and head teachers are mirroring the attitude displayed higher up, to use public funds on items of expenditure that have no direct effect on providing quality education.


Investigation committee

Those of us who are passionate about educational issues and concerned about the many factors contributing towards the poor quality of education applaud Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Chief Secretary Sir Manasupe Zurenuoc for instituting an investigation team headed by Simon Tosali.

The team investigated not only on why schools were getting their TFF funds late, but also traced where large chunks of TFF funds were being channelled to different ‘service providers’ through several conduits that deplete the TFF funds, leaving the deserving schools with no or little money to start their school terms.  

The popularity of O’Neill is going to be further enhanced when an investigation team such as this one lead by Tosal is to investigate into the management and administration of the TFF funds because the public is aware of the abusers of the funds and they need the support of the Government to hold the perpetrators accountable for their actions.  

There are individuals with interesting backgrounds in areas other than education placed in critical political and bureaucratic machinery with their eyes fixed on the TFF funds.  

Such individuals are only concerned about what and how much they can get instead of providing technical and policy advice to influence or shape decisions that would channel resources directly to areas where it is likely to improve PNG’s education indicators.

This investigation team headed Tosali would be discrete and no doubt would leave no stone unturned so that not a single toea intended for the TFF policy implementation is chewed up in ‘ghost consultancy services’ by individuals.  

The investigation team, in its wisdom or through an expanded terms of reference, is encouraged to identify any TFF funds used outside of improving quality education and the perpetrators prosecuted and the wealth acquired forfeited back to the state. 

While the consultants of sophistication (i.e., from simple consultants to super consultants are busy making proposals to draw TFF funds), PNG’s best efforts to improve the quality of education is yet to have the intended impact on improving the education indicators.

The old adage that, “Birds of a feather flock together” is certainly true.  

Many people in PNG, with their eyes in the right place, are aware of certain individuals with interesting past are flocking together to provide management advice on how TFF funds are used (abused).  

Where a band of honest and respectable individuals come together, we are bound to obtain quality advice to the greater benefit of an organisation.  

Similarly, where a band of crooks come together we are bound to obtain poor quality advice to the detriment of the organisation.