Inaction gives rise to more abuses

Focus, Normal

The National, Thursday July 30th, 2015

 THE Tuition Fee Free (TFF) policy remains the most important government policy to help parents to take away the school fee burden from millions of parents.  

The Government can ride on the successful implementation of the TFF policy to go to the 2017 polls and will have little difficulty or opposition to convince the people to return with another clear mandate to run the affairs of this country.

However, the people (parents) are sufficiently educated to recognise the significance of the TFF policy to have positive impact not only on the parents but their children if the full complement of the TFF funds is used for the intended purpose.  

The parents, in particular, and the public in general are fully aware that there is strong evidence (anecdotal or empirical) available in many sectors of the society which points out that the TFF funds have been abused through fraudulent means.  

Both public officials and leaders (bureaucratic and political) are aware of the abuse and fraud involving millions of kina (the famous missing K50m getting newspaper headlines recently).

This commentary offers several practical and theoretical suggestions to the Government and its implementing agency to take proactive steps to put a mechanism in place and minimise the fraud or abuses and maximise the uses of the TFF funds.  

It is suggested here to take several proactive steps to: 

  • Establish a TFF policy management secretariat;
  • formulate a TFF policy implementation and administration guidelines;
  • park the TFF funds with the Bank of Papua New Guinea;
  • investigate and find creative ways to manage and disburse TFF funds, and,

Make conscious decisions to invest TFF funds towards quality education instead of quantity education.

It is imperative that such an important policy should continue as the long term benefit for PNG is advantageous.  

It will help achieve Universal Basic Education goals, Education for All policy, Accelerating Girls Education, Millennium Development Goals and PNG Vision 2050 among many national and international determinations and aspirations.  

For this reason such a policy could be retained and given security of continuity so successive governments are compelled to continue funding the TFF policy by legislating into law the free education policy together with a compulsory education policy.  

If the Government is determined this suggestion is justified, sensible, and logical and yes this country has the financial and political power to achieve that.

The concerted effort put into improving and enhancing the TFF policy management and administration may lead to minimising the abuses or fraud, improving the efficiency in delivering the funds to schools in a timely manner, paying the genuine schools the correct amount, and avoiding payments made to wrong school accounts, ghost schools or ghost service providers, and even mis-paying certain schools because of lack of accurate school data.

The TFF policy is such an important policy that has great potential to help achieve other national and international goals. These goals are intended to improve the standard of living and improve many social indicators if only the leakages, weaknesses, and limitations demonstrated or learnt from the implementation of the TFF funds so far are prevented or reduced from recurring.  

The suggestions offered through this commentary are just one person’s views and such a view together with other views from the different stakeholders should be consolidated and given effect.

This will give further assurance and confidence to the people affected most; the parents, guardians and sponsors in general and the Government in particular that the TFF policy is secure from abuses and misuses through systems and people-related practices are reduced, while better uses or application of the funds is enhanced. 

When these suggestions for improvement are ignored and unheeded then that inaction alone gives rise to more abuses and fraudulent cases which will continue to enhance personal wealth of individuals and public officials or corporate entities.  

This will have the greatest disadvantage to the students’ education while our investment would unlikely to have the intended impact or effect in their education and the net consequences will ripple out throughout the country.