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USAID urges strict spending of education funds

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USAID urges strict spending of education funds

Calls for collective efforts to curb waste, fraud
As analysts advocate amendment to UBEC Act
Allege officials violating UBEC’s free Act component
Collecting money, selling books

By Chris Ochayi

The United States Agency International Development, USAID, has said that there was need for development partners to work together with the government at all levels and professional bodies as well as civil society organisations, CSOs, to ensure that donor resources for educational sector are spent wisely and transparently.

The USAID spoke through its Education Advisor, Dr. Marcum Phelps at a public policy dialogue on partnership policy for Universal Basic Education, UBEC, policy delivery in Nigeria, noting that the measure was to ensure that the funds are protected against waste, fraud and abuse.

Dr Phelps said the body has in place a mechanism to ensure seamless donor coordination and the wise use of funds and the accountability of funds.

The dialogue with theme; “Generating input for establishment of partnership performance framework policy for Universal Basic Education in Nigeria,’’ was organized by Association for Public Policy Analysis, APPA Nigeria.

Commending deliberations by participants at the policy dialogue, Dr. Phelps noted that, “If you have anything to add to this, I’ll be happy to have you add something to that, but there are regular coordination efforts, the points that you made are very well taken.

“There is a need for USAID and other development partners to work together with the government at all levels, federal, state, and local professional associations such as teachers associations and other members of civil society, to ensure that our resources are spent wisely and transparently and honest, to ensure that they to protect against waste, fraud and abuse.

“We have our own rules. In the US, that governs the use of our products, and they’re very rigorously followed other governments do as well so we fully support the intent of what you said.

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“With respect to donor coordination and the wise use of funds and the accountability of funds there are mechanisms in place.

“Perhaps there are some breakdowns that can be addressed as we build forward in the future, but we welcome the chance to hear this perspective today. Thank you very much.”

In his presentation, the National President of Association for Public Policy Analysis, APPA-Nigeria, Comrade Princewill Okorie, said the initiative was developed by the association to strategically advocate, mobilize and sensitize stakeholders in the nation’s education sector.

He said the desire was to come up with a performance framework or guide that will make partners in the Universal Basic Education sector take responsibilities assigned to them by free, compulsory and universal Basic Education Act 2004 serious.

Comrade Okorie added that, “The programme was in line with the objective of our association which is to analyze public policies made by government with a view to identifying challenges that hinder effective implementation and come up with advocacy programmes to address identified challenges to enhance implementations so as to improve the quality of life for Nigerians and enhance national developments.

“It is recognition of our role as Nigerian based civil society organization that is autonomous from the state and bound by a legal order or set of shared roles, but poised to provide organized platform for citizens’ participation on issues of public and good governance through advocacy for excluded constituencies, like public primary and junior secondary school pupils and students in Nigeria that made us take the challenging responsibility of organizing the event. “

On issue of practicability of free, compulsory primary and secondary education in the country, Comrade Okorie pointed out that the need to talk about the above issues was based on the statement in Section 18(3) of the constitution which states ‘government shall as and when practicable’.

He said, “The statement is probable, and has the tendency of providing excuse for operators of Universal Basic Education policy to manipulate the process as is already being witnessed.

“For example, some leaders of public primary and junior secondary schools are now disregarding the free component of the UBEC Act by collecting money and selling books in different guise with the excuse that it is no longer practicable for government to fund free primary junior secondary education.

“It therefore, requires the government to explain if funding of free primary and junior secondary education in the country is still practicable or not. To this end, those proposing amendment or amending the constitution should look at this clause with a view to removing it if government is capable or clearly coming up with the decision and clauses that will state that it is no longer practicable for government to fund the programme.

“This is very important because, partners working in the sector in terms of advocacy, monitoring and evaluation need to understand the situation. Again, it provides excuse for abuse of the provisions of the Act as regards the free nature of primary education in the country.

“However, before the decision will be taken, explanations need to be given to Nigeria on whether financing provisions made in the free, compulsory education Act 2004 and other related matters are no longer feasible.”

On the partnership arrangements, the APPA-Nigeria boss noted that, “There is an adage that says that you do not shave a man’s hair at his back. This implies that there is need to take this conversation for partners’ performance framework to the partners through zonal or State partners’ performance appraisal forum.

“Such forum will provide a good platform to or interact with the partners on relevant issues with a view to getting their input into the proposed performance framework policy. For example, UBEC functions in section 9 (m, n, and 0) are very critical in this regard.”

“It is however necessary to state that some of our findings which partners need to address include: docility or inactive attitude of partners towards mobilization for enrolment of pupils and students into public primary and junior secondary schools to the extent that privately owned primary and secondary schools are having increased enrolment than government owned ones under UBEC Programme.

“Weak or lack of advocacy or effort to protect public primary and junior secondary
schools located in communities by partners., lack of effective monitoring and reporting on the conduct of teachers and other staff of public primary and junior secondary schools.

“Lack of effective monitoring and reporting on compliance of management of schools with free tuition and books of the Universal Basic Education Programme, invisible fraud prevention or reporting mechanism put in place to make the sector work.

“Lack of prosecution of parents who fail to enforce the compulsory .weak or absence of security in the schools, and lack of engagement with State Universal Basic Education Boards and Local Education Authorities with partners. “

Okorie stressed further that, “Partners are persons that someone or an organisation is carrying out an activity with, while policy is a plan of action agreed or chosen by a political party, business etc. It also means a principles that one believe, in that influences how the person behaves.

“The concept of partners performance framework policy for Universal Basic Education Policy Delivery is therefore, concerned with accepted set of beliefs, ideas or rules that will be used to judge how well or badly those organizations, including governmental and non-governmental organizations working with Universal Basic Education Commission, State Universal Basic.”

Vanguard News Nigeria

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