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March 20, 2019

Ghost schools, ghost students: Scam spreads to 19 out of total KP 25 districts

Top Story

March 20, 2019

Highlights

  • The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has initiated inquiry into the scandal
  • Verification showed that out of 93,300 schools only 51,708 OOSC were found genuine in 25 districts
  • In only five out of total 25 districts, no ghost students was found.

ISLAMABAD: The enrolment of alarming number of ghost out-of-school children (OOSC) in ghost schools in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the last PTI government has turned out to be a huge scandal as the official report for the year 2018-19 shows that this corruption in the name of education has spread to 19 of the total 25 provincial districts where the scheme was launched.

Documents reveal that in addition to officials of Elementary and Secondary Education Foundation (ESEF), the provincial Bureau of Statistics was also allegedly found involved in registering ghost students and ghost schools. It was revealed that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has also initiated inquiry into the scandal and is presently interviewing relevant officials from different provincial departments. Last week, The News had reported that the KP chief minister was informed by the out-of-school children enrolled in the targeted six districts of the province till 2017, nearly 21,000 students were fake, whereas out of total 90 schools established in just one district for the same purpose, 70 have been found ghost.


Under Iqra Farogh-e-Taleem Voucher Scheme (IFTVS), the provincial government has been funding millions of rupees to the “fake” students as well as the “ghost” schools from public kitty without conducting any credible audit. Since 2014, when the PTI launched this scheme to address the issue of out-of-school children, each student was funded around Rs1,100 per month.

Documents, now provided to this correspondent, reveal that the 2018-19 physical verification of total OOSC of 25 different districts where this programme was launched, out of total 93,300 enrolled students, only 51,798 were physically verified. It means that almost 43,000 were found ghost.

In the year 2018-19, for the purpose of credibility, the ESEF Board approved the agency’s recommendation of hiring the KP government’s Bureau of Statistics to identify 115,000 OOSC under ISTVS programme, in 25 district of KP, against the target set for academic year 2018-19. After the approval of the Board, an MoU was signed with the Bureau of Statistic (BoS) at a cost of Rs40 million. Being a government set-up, single source procurement was done.

Documents show that the BoS in July 2018 provided data to ESEF according to which 93,300 OOSC were successfully enrolled in 1,500 low cost private schools across provinces. BoS was paid initial two instalments each i.e. 30 percent of total cost as per MoU. During the survey process, ESEF district officers were provided with logistics so as to constantly monitor the BoS activities.

The ESEF carried out 10 percent validation/verification against the data of BoS. However, while physical verification of the schools and OOSC in district Mansehra was undertaken by the MD ESEF, it was alleged found that the concerned staffs of ESEF and BoS had colluded and in active connivance with one another, have registered thousands of ghost OOSC.

“More information was collected regarding these elements and their activities in other districts and it was shocking to find that thousands of fake OOSC have been registered in other districts too. It was found that the daily wagers hired by ESEF during 2017-18 following a survey by BoS, were found hiring many private schools in Mansehra.”

The document added that following this situation the district programme officers were instructed to carry out 100 percent verification of the 93,300 OOSC in the private schools. This verification process showed that out of 93,300 only 51,708 OOSC were found genuine in 25 districts of the province. In only five out of total 25 districts, no ghost students was found. In one district, at the time of 100 percent verification, the students’ number was found more than those registered.

As reflected in the earlier story in The News, surprisingly the officer- MD ESEF Zulfiqar Ahmad- who dug out these wrongs and sought corruption cases against the responsible has been suspended last month.

However, Adviser to Chief Minister KP and Chairman of ESEF Board of Directors Ziaullah Bangash had told The News that the MD was suspended for failing to achieve the target he was given. He said that the government wanted to address the issue of out of school children but the MD was not releasing funds under IFTVS schemes.

He complained that the MD was talking about corruption in the department and was even approaching other agencies including NAB. Bangash said that it was not the MD’s job. He added that Zulfiqar Ahmad was unilaterally taking decisions and was disliked even by most of his sub-ordinates. The CM’s adviser said that the government is initiating inquiry against the MD as well as other officials of the agency.

Bangash said that the government was now trying to revamp the organisation for better results. He said that during his stint as MD, Zulfiqar’s performance was what he called “Zero”.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that the NAB KP has already initiated an inquiry into embezzlement in Iqra Voucher Scheme of the ESEF. According to a NAB letter, available with The News, details of amount allocated year wise for the project; list of schools, principals, bank accounts of the schools, amount disbursed to the school owners in Mansehra; work plan of IFTVS 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18; Agreement deeds signed with schools owners in district Mansehra; procedures adopted for IFTVS from nomination of the student till disbursement of the amount; board minutes for the period concerned; monitoring reports of district, head office and project section; statement of account of IFTVS from opening till date, etc. have been sought besides probing the concerned officials.

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