Ghana's feeding program in jeopardy over mobilemoney

Reports say there is a growing concern and grumbling among matrons of the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP) in the Volta region, over attempts by government to pay them through MTN Mobile Money pay system.

Ministry of gender, children and social protection, according to our investigations, has entered into an arrangement with Mobile Telecommunication Network (MTN) Ghana in which matrons under the school feeding scheme would receive their pay through the mobile money transfer.

Accordingly, these matrons have been directed to register for the mobile money transfer to enable government effect payment to them, Today further learnt.

The move, this paper gathered, has incurred the wrath of the matrons who cannot fathom why government is refusing to pay them through the banks as it had done over the years and instead prefer to pay them through money transfer.

They also raised issues about the already poor savings culture in the country, saying the directive will further undermine savings in Ghana.

Today's checks have revealed that whilst every assurance was given to these matrons of the school feeding programme in the region that government would settle all outstanding bills by the beginning of 2015 academic year, not a single penny has been dropped into any of their accounts.

Today gathered that some communities in Volta region where these matrons of the feeding programme are operating have no MTN mobile money vendors and will find it extremely difficult accessing the service should they register for the MTN mobile money.

Also, the few MTN merchants available at dotted communities confirmed to Today that they cannot carry out such transactions since the monies which are to come to the matrons involve large sums.

According to them, it is even difficult for a person (subscriber) to cash GH¢200 at their centres let alone receive over GH¢120,000.

At Biakoye, one of affected communities in the volta region, people there can access mobile money service only if they travel to Kpando after waiting in queues for a whole day.

Meanwhile, according to sources, the sector Minister, Nana Oye Lithur, seems not to care about the development.

Instead the source said she was bent on ensuring that the MTN Mobile money was used.

Today leant that the gender, children and social protection ministry, MTN and their agents were seeking to cash in on this arrangement since they stand to earn commission on every withdrawal or transaction the matrons would make.

This paper established that on every GH¢1,000 that a matron would withdraw, there will be a GH¢10 deduction.

The development, sources close to the matrons said, has given them headache and sleepless nights since the matrons had invested hugely in cooking for the school pupils for the past two terms.

Some matrons who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity told Today that they were asked to provide their bank accounts at a recent meeting held on 29th Agugust, 2015 so that their arrears would be paid to them since the finance ministry had released cash for payment.

And this directive, they indicated, was complied with.

They said on August 30, 2015 the desk officers of the finance ministry came for their account numbers. And then a week later they brought the MTN Mobile Money issue.

"They called us for another meeting and told us to register for MTN mobile money for them to send our money to us. We tried to explain things to them but they told us to put our concerns on paper," an aggrieved woman said.

"What they are also telling us is that if we don’t register they will terminate our contracts. They should do it, we are ready," another woman furiously said.

According to the matrons, they were asked not to cook any rice from Togo and that government would provide local rice, oil, beans, and tomatoes for the cooking.

Meanwhile what they received, according to them, was rice which was not local rice.

Against this background the matrons asked government and the minister to reconsider their decision and allow their monies to be paid through their banks.

According to most of them, they have taken loans from their banks and the arrangement is that the monies be deducted from their accounts, so the introduction of this new mode of payment will put them in a very difficult situation as regard their dealings with the banks.

According to one of the matrons, “what will pain me is the fact that I will sit and see my own party out of office. Though it is going to be a very hard thing to do, we have no option but to allow it to happen if this is how they plan to pay us back.”

Another angry matron said: “the Mahama-led government seemed not care a bit about the plight of people.”

"Indeed, there is some disaffection among the matrons who are also threatening to boycott cooking for the school children if government fails to pay them," the affected matrons averred.

According to them, they are reliably informed that monies have been released for payment but because of this idea of mobile money payment system, officials in charge have sat on the money, refusing to pay into their accounts.

However, the problem, Today can report, started immediately after government removed the GSFP from the ministry of local government and rural development to the ministry of gender, children and social protection.

It would be recalled that government’s directive to the two sector ministers signed by Chief of Staff, Mr. Julius Debrah, requested for an immediate change over.

And as per the government’s directive, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Alhaji Collins Dauda, accordingly handed over the responsibility of the GSFP to Nana Oye Lithur.

The GSFP is a social intervention by government to help boost enrolment in public basic schools and the nutritional needs of basic school children by providing one nutritious meals for school children from four to twelve years.

It was established in 2005 by Ghana and the Dutch Government as a means to boost domestic food production and increase school enrolment, attendance and retention among kindergarten and primary school children.

The programme was inspired by the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme, Pillar three of NEPAD under the recommendations of the United Nations Millennium Task Force on Hunger.