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21 February 2017

Printers execute govt’s textbook project, ask for mobilisation fee

workingonbooks

Workers of Jay Kay Industries and Investment Limited feverishly working on the textbooks

Local printers who won the bid to print textbooks locally for distribution to basic and secondary schools in the country have begun executing their jobs.

Twelve publishers and eight printers were selected in a competitive bidding in October 2016 to produce textbooks in the country as part of efforts at supporting the growth of local industries.

Even though the government is yet to pay the 20 per cent mobilisation fee, printing is already in progress with the expectation that the money would be paid soon.

Under the contract, the publishers were to have engaged local printers who were expected to print all the books locally for distribution to the schools before the commencement of the 2016/2017 academic year.

However, the signing of the contract was delayed until the last quarter of  2016.

Initial discussion

The Managing Director of the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL), Mr Ken Ashigbey said he was happy that the contract was given to local publishers and printers, who, out of the desire to see their work distributed to the schools for use, had already started printing.

He commended the government for keeping its word by giving the entire printing of textbooks to local printers who, as a show of good faith, started printing, especially when the mobilisation fee was yet to be paid.

Mr Ashigbey said he had already had an initial discussion with the Minister of Education and the chief director of the ministry regarding the contract.

Kabkork Publications

The Chief Executive Officer of the Kabkork Publications Ltd, Mr Michael Caesar, one of the publishers who won the contract, admitted that even though the contract was signed on October 13, 2016 for the local publishers to engage local printers, the government was unable to pay the 20 per cent mobilisation fee.

He said there was an assurance for the payment of the mobilisation fee to facilitate the work, “but that did not materialise before the exit of the then government.”

Mr Caesar, however, maintained that the mobilisation alone was not the criteria for the award of the contract but that printers needed to indicate that they had the ability to perform.

He added that because of that, the publishers had an understanding with the printers to start the printing, while they tried to mobilise some funds along the line.

Advice to local printers

Mr Caesar advised the printers to go ahead with the printing and where they genuinely needed some support such as engaging extra factory hands and payment of utility bills, they could fall on their publishers to support them while they waited for the mobilisation.

He acknowledged that some of the printers had credited lots of materials for the work and were now being harassed by their suppliers for payment and advised the printers to rather expedite the work such that when the mobilisation was paid, they could recoup their investment.

“What I know is that they are actually working. I am only encouraging them to push hard and not to wait for the mobilisation fee before working,” he explained.

He was happy that as part of the conditions of the contract, the printing was to be done locally, “which I support completely, especially considering the amount of money that flies outside when we do the printing outside. Indeed, the country bleeds.”

Mr Caesar said even though there was a change in government, the contract would not be affected, explaining that it was understandable that a substantive Minister of Education had just been approved a week ago and he had to settle down before addressing such issues.

Recapitalisation of local printers

Mr Caesar, however, advised local printers to recapitalise to be able to expand their capacity, noting that some of the printers were still using obsolete machines.

He suggested that local printers should collaborate with their foreign counterparts who could inject capital and modern machines, and work out the percentages, “after all, today, business is about collaboration and partnership.”

Mr Caesar explained that that was better than being alone with obsolete machines with no chance of competing with others.

 G-Pak

The Director of G-Pak, a subsidiary of the GCGL, Mr James Dadzie, explained that printers were impressed upon to start printing the books while the government worked on the mobilisation fee.

“Unfortunately, it got to the time when the election was around the corner, but we were informed that the contract was a sovereign one and irrespective of the outcome of the election, the government would pay,” he explained.

He said the contract was to have taken effect in June 2016 and based on the assurance by the Ministry of Education, most of the printers went ahead to buy materials on credit, “and now, it is due for payment”.

Mr Dadzie was worried that he could not secure other materials from suppliers since he needed to pay the first consignment before he could get a second one and was hopeful the new government would settle down quickly and give priority to the contract.

Buck Press

For his part, the CEO of Buck Press, Mr Kofi Buckman, said his company, just like all other printing houses, was awaiting the mobilisation fee to be able to work, “even though we are printing the books”.

He said if the mobilisation had come as expected, he would have finished printing even before Christmas and was confident that if the funds were made available, he would deliver the job in two months.

Mr Buckman was concerned that suppliers of the materials he credited were on his neck for their money and was hopeful that the mobilisation fee would be paid soon to enable the printers to settle part of their indebtedness.

Type Company Ltd

The CEO of Type Company Limited, Mr Coby Asmah, said his company had started printing in earnest even though the mobilisation fee was yet to be paid, but was doing so based on goodwill and appealed to the government to keep faith with the payment schedule.

He said even though the company had prepared for the job, it was saddled with the issue of the drop in the value of the cedi which was eroding whatever gains the company could make.

Mr Asmah noted that the printers gave the prices to the Ministry of Education in February last year and were compelled to hold on to that in spite of the devaluation of the cedi against the dollar.

Coupled with that, he said the high cost of power was a militating factor, “but as we speak now, we have not been paid even though it was agreed that we would be given something to begin with.”

Mr Asmah, however, said the interest of the company was to ensure that the books got to the schools to facilitate effective teaching and learning.

Jay Kay Industries and Investments

For his part, the Managing Director of Jay Kay Industries and Investments Limited, Mr Pawan Aidasani, said printing was in progress and he was hopeful that the company would finish the work on schedule even though the government was yet to pay the mobilisation fee.

He said at a meeting in November, 2016 with the chief director of the Ministry of Education, printers were assured that the contract was a government of Ghana contract and not for any political party and so, irrespective of which political party won the election, the contract was still binding.

He explained that it was based on that assurance that all  printers began printing and expressed the hope that the government would pay the mobilisation fee to enable the printers to settle their suppliers who were currently requesting for payment.

 

Writer’s Email: severious.dery@graphic.com.gh

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