General News of Saturday, 7 December 2019
The management of the Ghana Education Service (GES) says it has learnt with shock the declaration of a strike by the teacher unions under the service effective December 9, 2019 over the alleged delay in the payment of salary arrears (legacy arrears) owed some staff.
“It is, therefore, with utmost shock that management has learnt of the purported declaration of a strike action and states that the conduct of the union leaders is grossly an abuse of the principle of good faith and good working relations which have been established and nurtured over the years,” it said.
A statement signed by the Director General of the GES, Professor Kwasi Opoku-Amankwa, said management was of the view that public funds could not be dissipated to undeserved persons and was working hard to clean the data to ensure that only deserved persons were paid by the Christmas break as agreed with the union leaders at the meeting on December 2, 2019.
“Management wishes to indicate that the strike action of the unions cannot be legitimate, especially of the personnel who are not owed any arrears of salary and call on all to remain calm and go about their normal duties as all efforts are being made to effect the payment to only deserving staff as soon as practicable,” it said.
The GES said the legacy arrears which related to outstanding arrears between 2012 and 2016, affected about 120,232 staff of the GES.
The legacy arrears, the statement said, was as a result of the policy by the then government which allowed the payment of three months of salary arrears owed any employee in the public service, adding that all other arrears were to be justified and validated by the Audit Service before payment.
On Thursday, December 5, over 300,000 first and second cycle school teachers across the country said they would lay down their tools from Monday, December 9 over the failure of the government to pay the legacy arrears due members.
According to the teachers who belong to the three main teacher unions, the legacy arrears spanned the period 2012-2016.
The unions, made up of the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) and the Coalition of Concerned Teachers (CCT), announced their decision to embark on an industrial action at a press conference in Accra last Thursday.
Addressing the press on behalf of the unions, the President of GNAT, Ms Philippa Larsen, said on Friday November 28, 2019, they were invited to a meeting by the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, the Ghana Education Service (GES), the Controller and Accountant General and the Ghana Audit Service.
“The subject for discussion was the legacy arrears which spanned the period 2012-2016. Primarily, we the unions were concerned with the payment of the said arrears because our checks had revealed that the arrears had been verified and approved for payment by the Controller and Accountant General’s Internal Audit Unit, about three weeks earlier.
“However, we were informed that when the verified data was handed over to the GES for review and action, the GES would not budge, because it claimed some discrepancies had been discovered with some of the payment already effected,” she said.
Reaction from GES
But the GES said since 2017, the current government had paid arrears due to those who deserved them, adding that it was significant to note that as of September 2019, about 87,556 staff of the GES had been paid their full salary arrears, representing 95 per cent of the total staff validated.
“On November 9, 2019, management of the GES received another set of data from the Controller and Accountant-General Department covering 1,847 personnel who were to be paid the salary arrears,” it said.
Close examination of the data, the statement said, indicated that anomalies would have led to an excess payment of GH¢11.3 million.
“Some of the personnel were to be paid on undeserved rank. Some of the names had no personal records on the GES payroll from 2012 to 2014 to establish that they could be owed salary arrears over that period.
“Some of the listed personnel were not owed any salary arrears and yet had been credited with huge sums of money and in some cases up to GH¢58,000. Some female personnel were to be paid Night Watchmen Allowance when they have never been night watchmen within the GES. Some staff who were owed about six months had been credited for only two months,” it said.
The statement said on the basis of that, management directed that the data should be audited to verify the genuineness of the payments in order to ensure that only deserving staff were paid the right amounts of money due them, adding that the unions were duly informed of that development.
On Friday, November 29, it said management received a letter from the unions indicating that if the money was not paid by Thursday, December 5, they would advise themselves.
“Management invited the unions to a meeting by their leadership, who included the following: Mrs Gifty Apanbil, the Deputy General Secretary and acting General Secretary GNAT at the time; Mr Thomas Moussa, the newly-elected General Secretary of GNAT; Mr Eric Agbe Carbonu, President of NAGRAT; Ms Vida Agyemang, Women Organiser, CCT-Ghana and the General Secretary, CCT-Ghana,” it said.
At the meeting, the statement said management and the unions agreed that the data should be vetted and only those eligible for payment should be paid with the right amount.
Moreover, it said they agreed that all efforts were to be made to finish the vetting and the personnel involved paid the right amounts, and that the earlier indicated deadline of December 5 could not be realistic.
At the press conference, Ms Larsen said they disagreed vehemently with the reasons stated by the GES “since we believed the inputs had been done by a professional entity for the resultant payments to be effected, and had been sanctioned by the Controller and Account General’s own Internal Audit Unit”.
Reading the statement of the unions signed by the President of NAGRAT, Mr Carbonu, the President of CCT, Mr King Awudu Ali, and the General Secretary of GNAT, Mr Thomas Musah, the President of GNAT said the unions subsequently gave the employer up to December 5 to pay all the arrears due teachers, failure of which they (unions) would advise themselves.
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