The Ghana Book Publishers Association (GBPA) has expressed worry about the rate at which publishers who win government textbook printing contracts are awarding printing contracts to firms outside the country at the expense of local printers.
The practice, the association said, was against the Ghana Textbook Policy that required “publishers who win government contracts to give not less than 60 per cent of such contracts to local printers to print school textbooks.”
“In the year 2008, publishers used 40 per cent of local printers. Four years after (in 2012) they used 20 per cent of local printers. It means publishers are not giving a fair percentage of contracts to local printers and this is going to adversely affect the printing industry,” it stated.
At a stakeholder engagement on the textbook development and distribution policy in Accra, an Executive member of the GBPA, Mr Woeli Dekutsey, said: “Though the government recently selected eight printers for contracts, which was a real hope but cold comfort, currently publishers give out printing contracts to printers in countries such as India, China and Singapore.”
The meeting brought together representatives of the stakeholder organisations in the book chain such as publishers, authors, printers and distributors to discuss the Textbook Development and Distribution Policy (TDDP) and obtain feedback from them, especially the pricing, printing, evaluation and time for government to purchase textbooks.
Mr Dekutsey acknowledged that there were advantages in sending printing contracts outside Ghana.
“The turnaround is better, there is quality printing and less variation in printing cost contrary to the cost variations among local printers that are very shocking,” he stated.
He, therefore, stressed the need for local printers to be educated on how they could standardise their printing cost estimates.
Pointing out that there were clear guidelines for the implementation of the textbook development policy, Mr Dekutsey claimed that the implementation policy had been fraught with challenges.
Poor student-book ratio
He added that research on “resuscitating and enforcing the TDDP,’ found out that the government spent GH¢156 million on textbooks from 2004 to 2012.
He said less than 20 per cent of the 120 publishers, who had enrolled with the association, won government tenders.
“The government is spending more money on the procurement of textbooks and only six per cent on supplementary readers contrary to the fact that majority of publishers are into publishing of supplementary readers,” he explained.
Mr Dekutsey said ideally the textbook policy required one student to one book but currently on the average the research found out that “we have two students sharing the same book.”
Need for legislation
The President of the GBPA, Mr Elliot Agyare, said the absence of a legislation on the textbook policy in the past had caused previous Ministers of Education to subject the policy to diverse interpretations.
He, therefore, expressed satisfaction with the call by the current Minister of Education, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, for the enactment of a legislation that would ensure sustainable book development and printing in the country, especially with the active involvement of the private sector