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PESHAWAR: Several anomalies have been detected in disbursement of stipend to girl students enrolled in public sector secondary schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The flaws in the elementary and secondary education department’s programme “Provision of Stipends to the Secondary School Girls” were found during a study conducted recently.

The study titled “Third party validation of stipends to girls students in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (2013-14 and 2014-15” was conducted by Adam Smith International, an international NGO, which provides technical assistance to elementary and secondary education department.

According to study, monitoring of programme was not carried out

For disbursement of stipend to the girl students, the provincial government had allocated Rs1.08 billion for year 2013-14 and Rs1.093 billion for 2014-15.

Under this scheme, all girl students, from grade 6th to 10th, enrolled in government school across the province are receiving bi-annual money orders of Rs1,200 each to overcome the gender disparity.

The primary objective of the study was to verify the payment of stipend to girl students and to assess and validate the internal control in place for the transparent and efficient transfer of funds to beneficiaries; to identify institutional, financial and administrative issues faced during the payment process; and to make recommendations for bringing improvement in the programme.

According to the study, 4.7 per cent students in 2014-2015 and 2.8 per cent students in 2013-2014 were asked for money, mostly by the postmen, to hand over the amount of stipend to them.

The field survey findings confirm existence of one type of ghost students. Such students are mostly absent but they are still receiving the stipend. It says that 6.2 per cent of the total schools in the sample have 314 ghost students.

The findings say that approximately 1,648 students received around Rs3.95 million to which they were not eligible. Only those girl students, whose attendance is 80 per cent, are entitled to receive the stipend.

These 314 students were identified by their classmates and their attendance records confirmed that they were mostly absent from the school but they still received the stipend.

Although the PC-1 of the programme has an elaborate system of monitoring, yet most of the processes mentioned there were never implemented. The third party regular monitoring mentioned in the PC-1 was never initiated.

Additionally, the post office also did not conduct the verification assessment of disbursement in five per cent schools. At the school level, although 59 per cent principals did claim that they inform the parent teacher councils about the stipend delivery dates yet they failed to provide any proofs of members of the council witnessing the disbursement process.

According to the study, 62 per cent of the headmistress of the schools said that there was no mechanism in place for lodging complaint. Understandably, most of the students were also clueless about the complaint mechanism mentioned in the PC-1.

“This is evident from the fact that most of the students and schools administrations are clueless when the stipend is delayed or students are missed,” it adds.

A banner about compliant mechanism, which also has the hotline number, was printed in 2013, but these are not visible anymore in most of the schools now.

More than 60 per cent of the principals stated that they didn’t have the capacity to communicate information to teachers and students; monitor attendance and receipt of stipend; and disburse the stipends. The principals consider these tasks additional responsibilities and a burden owing to shortage of time and staff.

Additionally, almost all the district education officers reported to the departments that they were overburdened at the moment and didn’t have adequate capacity to release the payments on time, transparently and efficiently.

Most of the DEOs interviewed, proposed that either they should be provided with additional time or the funds should be dispatched on time. Similar concerns were shown by all the DEOs and most of the principals.

On financial management front, the overall system lacks any internal control as the PC-1 outlines no mechanism for it and there is no method of regular reporting. Even at the post office, there were no school-based reports instead those were postman-based, which virtually made it impossible to reconcile figures at the school level.

It is pertinent to mention here that the government has been implementing the stipend programme since 2007. Initially, it only targeted seven districts with the lowest female literacy rate. In 2008, the programme was extended to the entire province.

Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2016