Posted on: www.dailyguideghana.com
By William Yaw Owusu
Thursday, 12 March 2015
A Member of Parliament has blown the cover on what he says is an attempt by the National Service Scheme (NSS) to allegedly extort money from students who are due to register to serve the nation.
According to Kwaku Kwarteng, MP for Obuasi West, the National Service Secretariat recently issued a directive, asking all final year tertiary students to pay enrolment processing fee of GH¢40 before they could access online registration forms but the MP insists the move is unlawful.
The NSS statement had said "Please proceed to any branch of the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) and pay your required enrolment processing fee of (GHS 40) in order to access the online registration platform. Note that without the payment you will not be able to register for your mandatory national service"
The move is creating uneasy calm among students since at all material times the payment was spread in the form of deductions from their monthly salaries.
Other are also of the view that it was unreasonable for the secretariat to coerce students who are not even on salaries to be charged for something they did not know about.
The MP wrote to the NSS Director, copied to the NSS Board expressing disgust about the situation saying “it is obvious that this charge is just wrong.”
Extortion of money
“I write respectfully to avert your mind to the fact that this charge by the NSS is wrong and unlawful. It amounts to extortion of money from students many of whom have no income of their own,” he said.
“To begin with, National Service personnel are citizens who are required by law to render mandatory service to the nation after completing tertiary education in Ghana. To force them to pay an "enrolment processing fee" before being allowed to comply with their National Service obligation is unacceptable.
He said but assuming without admitting that this charge is permissible, it would still be required under the Financial Administration Act (2004) and the Fees & Charges Act (2009) that the Minister for Finance brings it to Parliament for approval.”
“The law allows government departments that render service to interested members of the public to charge a fee for rendering the specific service. The law does not allow government departments to slap a fee on young citizens who are rather rendering a mandatory service to the state.”
The Obuasi West MP said that for the purposes of enrolling service personnel and running the National Service Scheme, “an allocation is made in the annual budget to the National Service Secretariat through the Ministry of Education,” adding “this is the state policy for funding the scheme.”
GH¢2.5 million yield
He said that per current figures, “this unlawful charge would yield about GH¢2.5 million,” asking “is this honestly the yearly cost of processing enrolment of service personnel?”
The MP pointed out that prospective service personnel have choice whether or not to join any association saying “indeed, the national constitution grants them the right to join an association and the right not to join an association.”
“Nobody has the authority to impose on them the obligations of an association they have not willingly joined. Come to think of it, they are even not National Service personnel yet; they cannot belong to any National Service association.
There is no lawful basis for this charge on the poor students. I therefore write respectfully to advise that this GH¢40 charge be removed immediately. The cost of enrolling national service personnel should be financed from the secretariat's budget allocation; that all students who have been compelled to pay this unlawful charge should have their monies refunded to them immediately.”
In a related development the NSS has issued a statement to justify the GH¢40 processing fees saying “payment for computerized registration and deployment (posting) of National Service Personnel was introduced in 2005 and has been in existence since. It is therefore not a new policy.”
“The amount involved GH¢40 which was paid by serving and previous National Service Personnel remains the same. The breakdown of the GH¢40 is as follows: GH¢10 for NSS ID card GH¢10 for National Service Personnel Association (NASPA) dues GH¢20 for computerized registration per person.”
The statement said the NSS Board approved that starting with the 2015/2016 service year all prospective personnel who intended to avail themselves to the computerized registration will be required to make this payment at the point of enrolment.
The secretariat said the policy was to eliminate all forms of cash transactions and payment at NSS offices and to improve the quality of service rendered by NSS to National Service Personnel by ensuring that their NSS ID cards and other relevant items were ready on time and could be picked at the time of collecting their appointment letters.