Recently, there has been a debate regarding whether or not the NDC Government led by Fmr. President Mahama cancelled the Book and Research Allowance. Doing a fact check on this will end up that they did not cancel it. But the argument is not as simple as the fact checkers portray it.
Indeed, an assessment of the attitude of the NDC Government from 2013 to 2016 and the NPP Government from 2017 to 2020 will reveal that the NPP Government has done far better as far as the payment of Book and Research Allowance is concerned.
We have chosen to use one indicator to analyse the issue in order to reach the conclusion that has been drawn. One way that beneficiaries of the Book and Research Allowance use to demand its payment is strike action. And it must be borne in mind that the resort to strike action by employees is most often the last option. When workers are over-stretched and their backs are against the wall, their last missile is a declaration of strike.
What is being done here is that we want to check under which of the governments did workers use strike action to demand the payment of the Book and Research Allowance from 2013 to 2020.
The Book and Research Allowance for 2012/2013 academic year was paid in 2013. There was no strike action to demand its payment. Perhaps Fmr. President Mahama was in his first year and his government had not formed the idea to scrap the Book and Research Allowance yet or his election was under challenge at the Supreme Court so he was not prepared to offend any group. Alternatively, it could also be that Ghanaians in general had patience for the judicial process which was underway to complete.
2014 will appear as the year the NDC Government led by Fmr. President Mahama reached its highest point of unleashing the state’s whip against beneficiaries of the Book and Research Allowance. Members of the Polytechnic Teachers Association of Ghana (POTAG) as it then was (now, Technical University Teachers Association of Ghana (TUTAG)) went on strike to demand the payment of their 2013/2014 Book and Research Allowance. Mr Mahama’s Government whipped these teachers by suspending their salaries for the month of August 2014.
On 13th May 2014, POTAG declared a strike action and on 31st August 2014, it was called off but their salaries for August was ceased by the Mahama-led government.
The University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) is reported to have declared full support for the POTAG strike.
As if the “dead goat” president (For that is how he referred to himself) was not satisfied with his whip on POTAG; UTAG also declared a strike action following the Government’s persistent refusal to pay the 2013/2014 academic year Book and Research Allowance.
The 2014/2015 academic year Book and Research Allowance was due to be paid in 2015. The NDC Government led by Mr. Mahama still poised to scrap it, refused to pay until UTAG went on strike. During that year, POTAG could not go on strike because they had not recovered from the bruises suffered from the August 2014 whip of suspension of salaries the Mahama-led government inflicted on them.
So during the second and third years of Fmr. President Mahama, beneficiaries of the Book and Research Allowance had to pay dearly for an allowance that is part of their conditions of service.
2016 was the year Fmr. President Mahama was seeking re-election and so without any effort, his Government paid the 2015/2016 academic year Book and Research Allowance. The Government could not afford to risk the election by holding on to their sham National Research Fund which was clearly a careful and surreptitious way to scrap the Book and Research Allowance. The National Research Fund disappeared once the NDC Government was forced to pay the Book and Research Allowance for their time in government. Once they had paid, there was no need to push for the establishment of the National Research Fund. So if it was not a sham, then we do not know what it is.
And the irony is that from 2013 to 2016, the now running mate of the NDC, Professor Jane Naana Opoku-Agyeman was the Minister of Education. What is even devastating about the whole situation is that Prof. Jane Opoku-Agyeman was a beneficiary of the Book and Research Allowance during her time as an academic at the University of Cape Coast yet her former colleagues had to struggle year on year for something she used to be a beneficiary.
We have decided to look at the period spanning 2017 to 2020 together because the story has been one and the same.
Even though there have been delays (delay is typical of all successive governments), they did not reach the point where UTAG or TUTAG will go on strike. Also, the NPP Government led by President Akufo-Addo assured beneficiaries that they were prepared to pay the Book and Research Allowance and also set up a National Research Fund to support further research in the country. In fact, in February 2017, Hon. Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, the Minister of Education announced at Takoradi Technical University that the government had released the money for the payment of the Book and Research Allowance for the 2016/2017 academic year. That announcement alone sent relief to all beneficiaries and they had no option than to heave a sigh.
Ever since 2017, the Government has paid the allowance with little or no effort from beneficiaries. The Government has paid that of the 2019/2020 academic year Book and Research Allowance in 2020.
It must be insisted that the NPP Government has not only paid the allowance but also the Government has increased the Research component from Ghc 500 to Ghc 1500. What else can we ask for from this Government again? So far, there is nothing to suggest that the NPP Government will scrap the allowance. In fact, there is every reasonable indication on which beneficiaries may rest assured that a future NPP Government will rather increase the Book and Research Allowance by setting up the National Research Fund to support further research in the country.
Maybe the only issue left hanging is the arrears of Ghc 500 to be paid to only TUTAG members following their migration to the payment structure of public universities. But even with that, we are aware that the government has started the process to paying the arrears and we are hopeful that the money will be released in no time.
It is crystal clear at this juncture that the Akufo-Addo-led NPP Government from 2017 to 2020 has performed better than the Mahama-led NDC Government from 2013-2016 as far as the payment of Book and Research Allowance goes.