The Ministry is importing fabrics from China for government’s free school uniform programme for deprived pupils in basic schools, rendering a contractual agreement with Printex Ghana Limited, one of the local textile manufacturing companies, to supply the fabric useless.
Equipment worth millions of dollars which the company purchased to retool its equipment in anticipation of the continuous production of the uniforms now lie idle.
The action of the Ministry of Education contradicts promises made by government to revamp the local textile industry to make it competitive and a major driver for youth employment.
Government in 2009 made it a policy to empower local textile manufacturing companies by procuring all its fabric needs from local manufacturers.
A few years down the line, government seems to have abandoned the local textile manufacturing companies, who have sunk huge sums of monies into retooling and installing new machines to meet the new demand, to procure the uniforms from China.
Late last month, the Greater Accra Regional Directorate of the Ghana Education Service released sets of uniforms to schools in Metropolitan, Municipality and District Assemblies for onward distribution to pupils in the region.
The development has sent tongues wagging among the local textile manufacturing industry, many of who are questioning the government’s commitment to grow the local industry if it continues to import cheap fabric from China at the expense of a collapsing local textile manufacturing industry.
In August 2009, President John Mahama, then Vice-President, at a meeting with the Association of Ghana Industries and the Textile, Garment and Leather Union, stated government’s resolve to procure all materials for the free school uniform project and subsequently extend it to other institutions such as the police, military and paramilitary institutions throughout the country.
This assurance compelled the local industries to invest heavily into machinery to meet the demand, but all that is rusting away as government has reneged on its promise, leading to huge investments made by some textile companies sitting idle.
The Finder is informed that government, after conducting an initial assessment of the local manufacturers’ capacity to meet its demand, was overwhelmed by the findings and went ahead to sign agreements with some companies to begin production.
Documents available to The Finder indicate that the Government of Ghana, through the Ministry of Education, thereafter entered into contractual agreement with Printex Ghana Limited, one of the local textile manufacturing companies, to supply the fabric.
By the agreement, an initial volume of 5,500,000 yards of fabric was ordered by government and was supposed to be delivered in two batches.
Information gathered by The Finder indicates that out of this quantity, the first batch of 3,160,000 yards was produced and delivered to government.
But that seems to have been an end to government’s business of buying from the local manufacturers.
When The Finder contacted the General Manager, Administration at Printex, Mr Moses Tetteh Zizer, he explained that after the first consignment was delivered, all efforts to get government to initiate processes for the second consignment has since proved futile.
He told The Finder that a number of correspondences to the Ministry of Education requesting to know the status of the project were never answered.
In a letter dated January 17, 2012, a copy of which is in the possession of The Finder, management of Printex followed up on an earlier letter written on
October 3,2011 seeking information on the status of the contract to produce the second batch of the fabric for the school uniform project.
The letter, with the subject ‘RE: Government School Uniform Project,’ read in part: “We refer to our correspondence on the above subject dated 3rd October, requesting to know the status of the project to enable us organise our operations.
“Unfortunately, no answer was vouchsafed and the status quo persists.
“We wish to take this opportunity to reiterate our earlier request for information on the way forward, in order to adequately prepare for its continuation.”
This letter is yet to be given a reply from the Ministry of Education, The Finder can report.
He noted that the company, after the agreement, re-tooled its equipment in anticipation for continuous production for government as promised.
“We even expanded production line, retooled our equipment because of the quantum we were looking at producing,” he said.
Mr Abraham Koomson, Secretary General of the Ghana Federation of Labour, speaking to the issue, said the union is seriously disappointed at the development, because the policy to procure fabrics locally was to help resuscitate the local textile industry and to create jobs.
“Abandoning this laudable policy to go purchase from China is most unfortunate,” he noted.
He mentioned that before government took the decision to procure locally, a team was assembled to conduct an assessment and do due diligence on local companies’ capacity to meet the supply demand before the agreement was signed.
According to him, the team was overwhelmed by the findings, which subsequently led to the first contractual agreement with Printex Ghana Limited.
He, therefore, urged the government not to renege on its promise and to, as a matter of urgency, reverse the trend if it is indeed committed to empowering the local textile industry to be competitive.