The Officer In-Charge of the West Africa Examination Council (WAEC), Felix Akuffo, on Monday 8th February 2021 informed Members of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Education that Sierra Leone owes them a total of $14m for 11 years now.
He made this disclosure while responding to questions and concerns from Members of the Committee on issues of alleged extortion of parents via the sales on scratch cards and withholding of public examination results.
Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Dominic Tshombe explained that the summons was the result of two public concerns from their electorates which were raised in the Well of Parliament recently. The issues related to withheld exam results and the high unregulated costs and scarcity of scratch cards, for admission into secondary schools and universities.
He maintained that government introduced the free quality education project to reduce the cost of education for parents to send their children to school, arguing that the continuous increase in price of scratch card and other school charges is a call for concern for which the Committee requires some explanation.
On the issues of withholding results, the WAEC Officer In-Charge, explained that after receiving the exam reports they placed them into three sets including those reported by the WAEC officers at the exams hall. The second step, is cases detected by examiners while marking the scripts and the third are those submitted by the ACC.
He said that after receiving such cases they investigate and withhold results of the candidates and then send the report to the Sierra Leone Examination Committee for appropriate actions. He told the Committee that Reports of Exams malpractice for the past WASSCE were presented to the Sierra Leone Examination Committee on the 29th January 2021.
He assured the Committee that decisions of the Exams Committee on result withheld for the last WASSCE examination will be implemented this week or next week, adding that the delay in withholding results by WAEC is as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic together with clustering of multiple public exams within a very short time as they have to process results for all these exams.
WAEC he said is seriously understaffed with only 24 officials and the Registrar who handles all the pre and post examination processes out of an establishment of 141 officials.
He added that they lack adequate space and storage for securing materials including scripts and accommodations for staff, explaining that candidates for WASSCE increased from thirty thousand in 2018 to 150,000 in 2020 with the expectation of more increase this year.
Accordingly he said all of this affects the timely release of results, stating that for the past two years the ACC and CID are investigating cases of examination malpractices on their own and are also sending cases to court for prosecution, but to date decisions of such cases are yet to be brought to WEAC’s attention which leads to the continued withholding of results of candidates allegedly involved.
The Officer-In-Charge asked for additional electoral gadgets that will help improve their work and also reduce time spent in handling results, disclosing that as at present WAEC have only received 50 percent of the 2020 Government WASSCE examination fees from Government.
He disclosed that Sierra Leone for 11 years now has not been paying its contribution to WAEC Headquarters
which has accumulated to the sum of $14million. He complained that the Government subvention to WAEC had helped them to pay salaries, but they stopped since 2001, which according to him is also affecting the smooth running of their operations.
He maintained that now WAEC relies only on examination fees for its running which according to him is not enough considering the payment time by government, pointing out that Sierra Leone pays the lowest in examination fees when compared to the other WAEC countries.
Felix Akuffo informed the Committee that WAEC is yet to pay the examiners that marked the 2020 WASSCE due to lack of enough funds.